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October 31, 2016 10:06 am

The New York Times Dwells on a Mob Murderer’s Jewish Background

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Maury Lerner. Photo: Wikipedia.

Maury Lerner. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Jewish minor league baseball player who was convicted in 1970 of an organized-crime-related murder and served 18 years in prison was the subject of the cover story in the Sunday New York Times sports section.

Given that the World Series and pro football seasons are under way, it’s hard to understand why a nearly 50-year-old murder case deserves such prominent display in the Times. The article continues inside the section and covers two full broadsheet pages, accompanied by six photographs and a diagram of the crime scene.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Maury Lerner’s Jewishness was part of the reason the Times chose to dwell retrospectively on his story.

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The article quotes Lerner’s son alleging vaguely that antisemitism played a role in his run-ins with law enforcement in the Massachusetts town of Brookline. “A Jewish troublemaker would not be well looked upon by an Irish police force,” Glen Lerner is quoted by the Times as saying. The Brookline police — which, by the way, is an American police force, not an “Irish” one — isn’t given an opportunity to respond in the Times article to the allegation of religious bias.

Lerner’s eventual murder conviction came after an investigation by the FBI, not the Brookline Police. Nevertheless, the Times story keeps pressing the Jewish angle:

Through it all, Lerner was the odd man out: a Jew from Brookline, not an Italian from Providence, who sought comfort in the regular visits to the prison by a Boston rabbi.

Note the strange, non-parallel contrast of the “Jew” and the “Italian,” as if there are no Italian Jews, or as if “Italian” is a religion rather than a national origin.

The Times reports, without attributing the source of the information, that after being convicted, “the former ballplayer sent world that he didn’t want any more visits from the rabbi.”

And that’s the end of the religious or Jewish part of the story — except for a photograph accompanying the Times article. The picture features Lerner’s son Glen wearing a necklace with what is unmistakably a large cross. The Times doesn’t provide any explanation of the necklace or mention Glen Lerner’s religion, if any. But he isn’t the violent criminal; his dad was. It’s just when someone is a Jewish criminal that the Times manages to find a way to emphasize his religion.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. 

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