Everyone knows The Denver Post has endorsed President Obama, but now it seems the paper is actively campaigning against Mitt Romney on its opinion page. Thursday’s Post carries a story by liberal syndicated columnist Katie Roiphe comparing the top players in the presidential campaign to characters from the Harry Potter series. It’s a goofy but harmless-sounding idea, until you read the column.
Roiphe decides that the character who most resembles Romney is Dolores Umbridge. Or rather, Roiphe says her nine-year-old daughter Violet says, “He’s Umbridge!” when she sees Romney in the final presidential debate. Yeah, right.
As anyone who’s read the bestselling novels or seen the blockbuster movies can tell you, Umbridge may be the most detestable character in the seven-book series. She’s a bureaucrat who infiltrates the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and then proceeds to take over by cowing the school’s leaders with her mandates and dictates.
She’s also a sadist who tortures Harry by forcing him to write with a pen that draws from his own blood, “all the while smiling that fake and brittle smile,” as Roiphe puts it. Oh, and she’s a racist who wants to protect “pureblood” wizards.
The Denver Post helpfully provides photos of Romney and the actress Imelda Staunton, who plays Umbridge, beside the story for readers who might have been unclear on the concept.
Roiphe doesn’t really explain why any rational human being would see the smallest parallel between Romney and the Umbridge character. The only thing she says they have in common is that they smile a lot, in which case a far stronger argument could be made for comparing Umbridge to vice-president Joe Biden.
As for Obama, Roiphe’s “daughter” decides that the president most resembles Albus Dumbledore, the powerful, wise and caring wizard who heads Hogwarts. Of course.
In response to charges of bias, The Denver Post has pointed out that they run articles by authors of every political stripe, and Thursday’s opinion page does carry a piece by conservative radio host Mike Rosen. The difference is, Rosen doesn’t compare Obama to a sadistic dictator. Instead, he talks about the barrage of ads in this year’s election.
But hey, it’s six of one and a half-dozen of the other, as far as The Post is concerned. Fortunately, the paper’s readers are familiar with this tactic. In the handful of online responses to the Roiphe article, comments include “I’m disappointed but not surprised that DP chose to run this nonsense,” and “I fully agree what a waste of space, this is not journalism.”
Roiphe holds the title of assistant professor of journalism at New York University, but she’s best known for her books on feminism. She originally wrote the Harry Potter article for Slate, the liberal online magazine.
The Post brain-trust may believe that running recycled articles by hip authors is a great way to reach out to the under-30 crowd. Instead, they’re alienating serious-minded readers of every age. And those are the people who support newspapers.