Maureen Dowd

individual

Overview

  • New York Times Op-Ed columnist  
  • Won the 1999 Pulitizer Prize for series of columns about the Monica Lewinsky scandal

Born in January 1952 in Washington, D.C., Maureen Dowd has been an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. since 1995. For details about her education and the development of her career in journalism, click here.

Dowd describes her columns about public figures as “cultural profiles” that seek to reveal fresh insight by asking about a person’s favorite music, movies, literature and other personal interests or aversions. Her writing is characterized by an acerbic, often polemical style displaying irreverence for powerful figures, particularly in the realms of politics and religion (most notably Christian conservatives). “The Rapture is coming,” Dowd told fellow Democrat Chris Matthews on his November 7, 2004 NBC program, and “you and I are going up [to heaven]” but “all these hypocritical conservatives” are not. Dowd was also a passionate critic of George W. Bush, whom she accused of presiding over a theocracy.

An October 2002 Josh Chafetz article in the Weekly Standard depicts Dowd as a narcissistic writer tending to reduce “all political phenomena … to caricatures of the personalities involved. … And, of course, with every caricature goes a nickname.” For example, in the late 1990s Dowd depicted President Clinton’s accuser Linda Tripp as a woman who “rides on a broomstick,” and Clinton special prosecutor Ken Starr as a “sex addict.” During the Bush administration, Dowd described those in favor of invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein as the “Whack-Iraq tribe,” and those suspicious of the Bush administration’s real motives for going to war as the “Pesky Questions tribe.”

The same Chafetz article asserts that Dowd not only finds it “easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions,” but also thinks it “better to be cute than coherent.” “Along these lines,” writes Chafetz, “Dowd’s favorite rhetorical device is parallelism. For example, from her June 12 column: ‘The Islamic enemy strums on our nerves to hurt our economy and get power. The American president strums on our nerves to help his popularity and retain power.’” Chafetz also cited Dowd’s August 18 column in which she had written: “[Bush Sr.]’s proudest legacy, after all, was painstakingly stitching together a global coalition to stand up for the principle that one country cannot simply invade another without provocation. Now the son may blow off the coalition so he can invade another country without provocation.”

While Dowd commonly characterizes conservatives as lacking in compassion, her own writing is often peppered with phrases and references that can accurately be classified as offensive. In 2004, for instance, she referred to those who opposed embryonic stem-cell research as “extra-chromosome conservatives,” i.e., people suffering the mental impairment of Down Syndrome.

In 2003 Dowd mocked Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for his opposition to racial quotas and set-asides by declaring that Thomas himself had gotten his Court appointment through affirmative action. “President Bush and Justice Thomas have brought me around,” wrote Dowd. “I don’t want affirmative action. I want whatever they got.”

On May 17, 2009, it was reported that Dowd had lifted an entire paragraph (with the exception of two words) from a previous week’s blog post by Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall. When confronted with this apparent act of plagiarism, Dowd explained that she had simply tried to “weave” into her column a point that a friend of hers had expressed “in a cogent — and I assumed spontaneous — way.” In other words, Dowd claimed not to have known that her friend was reading from Marshall’s blog.

In mid-July 2009, Dowd penned an op-ed piece titled “White Man’s Last Stand,” which was critical of the white Republican senators who, at that time, were asking probing questions of Barack Obama‘s Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  “After all, these guys have never needed to speak inspirational words to others like them, as Sotomayor has done.  They’ve had codes, handshakes and clubs to do that.” Dowd then proceeded to attack former President George W. Bush for the “disgrace” of appointing “two white men to a [Supreme] court stocked with white men.”

For additional information on Maureen Dowd, click here.

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