The Journal vs. the widows


Geraldine Sealey
May 13, 2004 10:30PM (UTC)

What is the point of fighting with -- and demeaning -- widows of 9/11 victims? You'll have to ask Wall Street Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz. Last month, she wrote critically about the "Jersey Girls," four 9/11 widows who can often be seen on television shows and quoted in newspaper accounts and are visible and vocal members of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission. No one could miss "the darker side of this spectacle of the widows, awash in their sense of victims' entitlement," Rabinowitz wrote. She and the Journal haven't been alone in attacking the widows and other 9/11 families who have spoken out about the White House's lack of cooperation with the 9/11 commission and about the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's cynical use of 9/11 imagery in political ads. Elsewhere on the right-wing, Rush Limbaugh has done his part, as has the New York Post, as has the Republican National Committee.

For the four "Jersey Girls," a found, fervent political activism came naturally after they lost loved ones on Sept. 11. It's a phenomenon we've seen before. From Mothers Against Drunk Driving to Polly Klaas' father to the Lockerbie families, America has become familiar with survivors of horrible crimes joining -- and often leading -- debates about what remedies might prevent such tragedies from occurring again. They aren't the only authorities, certainly -- but they speak passionately and knowledgeably and deserve to be heard.

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Yet, here's what Rabinowitz had to say about 9/11 widow Kristin Breitweiser, in an email she did not intend Breitweiser to read. Rabinowitz responded by accident to Breitweiser, who submitted an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal entitled "What Is a Citizen To Do?" Rabinowitz wrote to her editor, advising him to stick Breitweiser's submission in the circular file: "total and complete -- not to mention repetitive -- nonsense from people given endless media access to repeat the very same stupid charges, suspicions, and the rest... but this is just an opportunity for these absurd products of the zeitgeist -- women clearly in the grip of the delusion that they know something, have some policy, and wisdom not given to the rest of us to know -- to grab the spotlight. again. and repeat, again, the same tripe before a national audience. My thoughts - we don't publish nonsensical contentions that offer no news, no insight - solely on the grounds that those who feel attacked get a chance to defend their views. For that we have the letters column."

The N.Y. Daily News reported: "Shortly after getting that e-mail, Breitweiser received another one: 'Rabinowitz, Dorothy would like to recall the message, '9/11 Widows' Response - the 'jersey girls.'"

Hate when that happens.

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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