New York Times journalist Maureen Dowd has been accused of “ethnic empathy” for writing about a fellow Irish American, Rory Staunton, the 12-year-old boy of Irish parents who died at NYU Medical Center in New York on April 1st after a misdiagnosis.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, senior editorial writer Michael McGough asks the question, ”Is ethnic empathy the same as bigotry?” and concludes that “ethnic empathy isn’t the same as bigotry, after all. But it’s still politically incorrect. “
McGough stated that he had previously written that, “almost uniquely, the alleged charm of the Irish was a stylistic crutch for writers of human interest stories (and editorials)...”
McGough stated that “this journalistic convention is also still with us.”
McGough stated that he had focused in his previous article on the “popularity with reporters of a supposed Irish psychological trait.”
Dowd, he said, was guilty of this when she “eulogized Rory Staunton, the son of Irish immigrants who own two New York bars. McGough wrote, “Dowd wrote movingly about Rory’s ambition to be a pilot, the way he protected other kids from schoolyard bullies, his admiration for Rosa Parks and the fact that when he went online, it was in search of CNN, not porn.”
But, he said, “Dowd also went physical in her tribute. Rory was not just a good-looking boy; he was a “freckle-faced redhead.” “How,” she asked rhetorically, “could you resist that sweet Irish face?”
McGough stated that, “My first thought was that this ethnic overkill was a variant of the lazy journalist’s recourse to Gaeolophiliac cliches that I criticized in my essay about Irish wit.”
However, on reflection he states that, “I think that’s unfair to Dowd. Maybe, for her, as for a lot of her Irish American readers, Rory’s appearance and ethnicity made his unnecessary death just a bit more more painful."
McGough says, “I’m not accusing Dowd of racism, any more than I would level that libel against my Irish mother, who if she were alive would have reacted the same way to the untimely passing of a kid who just happened to be “one of our own.”
He stated, "If Mom and Maureen are racists for feeling a special pang at the closed eyes on a “sweet Irish face,” then Barack Obama was a racist for observing that “if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon,” a reference to the African American child killed in Florida.
However, he said it was still “politically incorrect” to write about a fellow Irish American in such a way.