New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner has ended his relationship with Lone Star, the public relations firm led by Charley J. Levine, a right wing Zionist who counts Herman Cain and Glenn Beck among his clients.
Lone Star routinely pitches The New York Times stories and has arranged six paid speaking gigs for Mr. Bronner. The potential conflict therein came to light in a Columbia Journalism Review article by Max Blumenthal.
“On the one hand, it might be hard to cover Israel without stumbling across Lone Star’s many clients,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote in a September 14 article. “On the other, however, that might be a good reason not to have a business relationship with the firm.”
Public editor Arthur Brisbane acknowledged the potential ethics policy breach in his Sunday column. Although all the speaking appearances were for non-profit organizations and none paid more than $1,000, Mr. Bronner is at fault for failing to disclose the relationship to his editor. Mr. Bronner said he misunderstood the policy, and argued that Mr. Blumenthal’s own anti-Zionist politics influenced his perception of Mr. Levine’s influence in the New York Times pages.
“I allowed myself to be in a situation where someone could come after me this way,” Mr. Bronner told Mr. Brisbane. “I feel pretty bad about it.”
“In my view, the arrangement was ill-advised and created an appearance that could be construed by some as corrupt, but was not in actuality,” Mr. Brisbane concluded.
Mr. Bronner’s objectivity was questioned once previously during his tenure, when his son served in the Israeli military. Former public editor Clark Hoyt Bronner asked for a transfer but then-executive editor Bill Keller supported Mr. Bronner through the completion of his son’s duty.