NYT Revives Race Row Over Casey Affleck and Nate Parker on Eve of Golden Globes

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By Heat Street Staff | 2:53 pm, January 6, 2017

We read the New York Times so you don’t have to, and the tarnished paper of record has outdone itself with its Golden Globes preview coverage.

Just a few days before the event, the Times‘ Hollywood reporter Brooks Barnes has chosen to resurrect the row over the contrasting awards fortunes of Nate Parker and Casey Affleck.

As Heat Street has previously reported, Affleck is a front-runner for Best Actor by various awards bodies for his performance in Manchester by the Sea, while director-actor Nate Parker is being overlooked for his slavery epic The Birth of a Nation.

Parker was acquitted of raping a female student as she was barely conscious when he was in college at Penn State in 2001, while Affleck settled suits alleging sexual harassment from two women who worked on his documentary film I’m Still Here in 2010.

Although the two cases have been compared to each other, the two individuals and films are not like for like. Parker’s was a criminal case, while Affleck’s was a civil one. The Birth of a Nation, meanwhile, has received a less enthusiastic critical response since it premiered at Sundance Film Festival almost a year ago, while Manchester by the Sea has generated much more favorable reviews.

Since Parker’s film also depicts two rapes, arguably its director’s offscreen history bears more relevance to The Birth of a Nation than Affleck’s past does to Manchester by the Sea. 

Predictably, social justice activists and liberal journalists weren’t slow to claim that Parker was being slighted because of his race, and the New York Times, adopting its customary better-late-than-never editorial approach, has waded into the row.

In his article, Barnes asks about Parker and Affleck’s disparity: “Why do the two men find themselves in much different circumstances?

“Perhaps people think Affleck’s performance, and the movie in which he stars, is better. Maybe it’s because, as an Oscar nominee and the brother of the box-office star Ben Affleck, Mr. Affleck has attained a privileged status in Hollywood; the power surrounding him may make people reluctant to openly criticize him. Certainly a factor is the fact that there was unsettling new information revealed about Mr. Parker’s rape case in August—that his accuser later committed suicide—while there have been no new disclosures regarding Mr. Affleck’s cases.

“Or maybe, say those mindful of Hollywood’s checkered racial history, it is because Mr. Affleck is white and Mr. Parker is black.”

The first of Barnes’ theories is likely correct. Deep down, you sense he knows this. But yet the New York Times operates with a very strange entertainment coverage agenda, as recently outlined in revealing detail by its former Hollywood-based writer Michael Cieply.

The Guardian has also entered the fray, once again shedding no original light at all and resurfacing the historical claims.

The timing of the articles, just before the Globes, is significant and smacks of rival studios engaging in the dirty tricks campaigns that are legendary during Oscar season.

Meantime the Times, in true schizophrenic fashion, this week wrote a separate lighthearted piece about Affleck in New York.