Struggling with seriousness

STRUGGLING WITH SERIOUSNESS…. The Washington Times, a project of cult leader Sun Myung Moon, wants to be considered a real newspaper. It’s candid about its conservative bias, but nevertheless believes it has something to contribute to the discourse. It even hires conservatives away from real news publications — the Times is run by a conservative reporter who used to work at the Washington Post — as part of its bid for credibility.

It’s going to have to try a lot harder. David Weigel has a good catch this morning.

Kerry Picket of The Washington Times trekked to Baltimore to hear former Weatherman Bill Ayers speak yesterday and sparked an exchange that the paper is teasing on its op-ed page with a lot of huffing about Ayers’s terrorist past (“His radicalism and chosen profession bring to mind Oscar Wilde’s quip that, ‘Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.'”). Curiously, the paper doesn’t mention what Picket actually asked Ayers about — the conspiracy theory that he ghost-wrote President Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father.”

The Times‘ “reporter” suggested to Ayers that the former Weatherman “may have had a collaboration with “Dreams of [sic] My Father.” When Ayers said that never happened, Picket asked again anyway.

The very idea that Ayers had some role in writing the president’s first book has always been a bizarre conspiracy theory, peddled by unhinged right-wing activists during the presidential campaign.

And yet, there was the Washington Times, even now, hoping to probe the matter further.

The conservative paper has never really been perceived as a credible outlet, but the past few weeks have been especially painful. It published pictures of the president’s daughters alongside a story about youth homicides; it’s gotten key details wrong about Speaker Pelosi and the CIA; it’s wrenched quotes from context to go after the president; it was even forced to issue a retraction of a factually-challenged editorial that hoped to prove how “unpopular” Obama is.

Perhaps the Times should just give up on the whole idea of being taken seriously?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.