Cowardly Knight: L.A. Times Art Critic Christopher Knight’s Gutless Response to David Stein
I’ll begin this article by copping to a bias: my hatred of the L.A. Times borders on pathological. As a native-born Angeleno, I am both infuriated and ashamed that my great city can do no better for its “paper of record” than that childishly biased and legendarily inaccurate rag. True story: when I used to contribute op-eds to The Times, I would sometimes claim not to have received my payment, just so the accounting department would have to spend $20 or $30 to put a stop payment on the “lost” check and issue a new one. I was just trying to do my little part to help the paper lose money.
Like I said, pathological.
But I will give the staff of The Times this amount of credit: they’re chatty. Over the years, I have engaged in many fairly lengthy back-and-forths with Times writers and editors. I detailed some of those exchanges in a piece I wrote last year about The Times’ attitude toward the Jewish community. Call it bravado or call it being clueless, some Times writers don’t mind admitting – in writing – to unsavory journalistic practices.
In the fifteen-year history of my correspondences with The Times (a history that extends back to when I didn’t use a computer, resulting in exchanges of actual letters), I have never come across a more cowardly Times staffer than “art critic” Christopher Knight (not to be confused with the actor who played Peter Brady). Knight is a fraud, as fake as a van Meegeren Vermeer. He claims to write about art, but he doesn’t; he writes about politics. His columns are non-stop attacks against religious and political conservatives. Assign him to cover the opening of a new Chagall exhibit, and, somehow, he will find a way to turn the resulting article into an attack against Sarah Palin.
He also doesn’t like corresponding with people who challenge him (I’m not the only Times critic to have discovered this).
Recently, a January 5th column by Knight, in which he claims that a satirical image of Michelle Obama is “racist” and based on a fear of “uppity negroes,” went viral among conservatives. Like most Knight articles, his rant was about politics, not art.
Since Knight’s paranoid ramblings are currently the subject of many discussions among conservatives, on Facebook and on dozens of prominent websites, I thought I’d take this opportunity to dust off an exchange of emails from, ironically, almost exactly one year ago today. It’s the only time I ever got a reply out of the pompous bastard.
In typical fashion, Knight had attacked conservatives for objecting to a video exhibit at the Smithsonian that portrayed the desecration of images of Jesus. Knight called the objections by people like Brent Bozell and organizations like the Catholic League examples of “anti-gay bullying.” How DARE Christians object to the desecration of their sacred images in a federally-funded institution!
But hold on…doesn’t Knight write for the paper that threw the last tattered remains of its journalistic integrity out the window in 2006, when it refused to publish any of the “Mohammed cartoons” – an act of such sickening cowardice that even some of The Times’ leftist cogs couldn’t hide their disdain?
In fact, not only did The Times refuse to publish any of the Mohammed drawings (even the completely innocuous ones), but that same week it ran a cartoon showing evil Jews slitting the throat of a weeping Gentile, and drinking his blood.
That was fine, by Times standards.
So, I decided to write to Mr. Knight with a few brief questions. Our entire correspondence, which took place in late December 2010 and early January 2011, is below. I’ll be back with commentary at the end.
Dear Mr. Knight,
I read with interest your column today regarding the Smithsonian removing an exhibit after receiving pressure from conservative groups. I was left with two quick questions, and I would be exceptionally grateful if you could take a few minutes out of your day to jot down a brief reply.
1. What’s your opinion regarding the L.A. Times’ refusal to publish any of the Danish “Mohammed cartoons” when that controversy was making international headlines several years ago? Do you support your paper’s decision in that instance?
2. If the Smithsonian were to host an exhibit documenting the role of art in clashes between the Christian and Muslim worlds, would you support the inclusion of the “Mohammed cartoons” in that exhibit?
My thanks and appreciation for your time and assistance!
Dear Mr. Stein:
Thank you for your interest. However, I am an art critic, not a media critic. And as such, I write about art exhibitions that exist, not about exhibitions that don’t.
Regards,Christopher Knight Art critic Los Angeles Times 202 W. First Street LA, CA 90012 213-237-4355
Dear Mr. Knight,
I have one very small follow-up question to your brief reply to my email from last month (I had not wanted to bother you during the holidays, so I waited until now to email you again). I had asked you whether you supported your paper’s decision to not publish the Danish “Mohammed cartoons” when that controversy was making headlines several years ago. You responded that you are an art critic, not a media critic.
However, I checked your Twitter postings, and I see that in the past six months, you’ve opined about Republicans and global warming, the conservative belief that there’s a “war on Christmas,” Koran burning, Proposition 13, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Pamela Geller, the mosque near Ground Zero, Sarah Palin, Mel Gibson, and ideological bias on “Meet the Press.”
Yes, you are an art critic. But if you can offer your opinions about those matters, why is it out-of-bounds to answer my very simple question about the Mohammed cartoons? I’m not asking you to speak on behalf of the L.A. Times. I’m merely asking for your personal opinion.
I look forward to your reply.
Art exists within a social context, which is how I address it. I’m an art critic, not a media critic. Sorry you are unable to grasp the distinction.
Mr. Knight, with all due respect, I just don’t see how that explains why you can’t simply provide me with your opinion regarding the Times’ decision to not publish any of the Danish “Mohammed cartoons.” That’s all I’m asking for. It’s a very simple request. Do you, or do you not, or do you partially, agree with the L.A. Times editors’ decision to not publish any of the Danish “Mohammed cartoons.”
Is this not a case of “art in a social context?” Why can’t you simply express your personal opinion regarding the Times’ decision to not publish any of the cartoons? If you can opine about Mel Gibson’s expletive-laced rant, and “Dr. Laura’s” pejorative-laden meltdown, and Republican global warming skepticism, and the Cordoba House community center, why can’t you (or why won’t you) simply state your opinion about the fact that the Times refused to print any of the “Mohammed cartoons?”
Perhaps I’m being exceptionally dense, but I just don’t see why you can’t answer a very straightforward question.
And I never heard from him again!
I didn’t publish this correspondence at the time, because I felt there wasn’t much to it. But I suppose that’s the point; Knight was not only too cowardly to address my simple question, he also felt the need to excuse his cowardice with an outright lie – that he’s an “art critic” not a “media critic”…even though his columns and tweets are almost entirely devoted to things other than art criticism (including many, many rants about conservative media).
Knight is a liar and a coward, a fraud and a phony. And as such, he is an especially valuable member of The Times’ staff. We should all be so lucky to work at a place where we fit in so well.