Something is very wrong with the New York Times. Long regarded as the bastion of good, honest reporting, the legendary “paper of record” has tarnished its reputation with a series of inexplicable blunders in the way it handles coverage of Donald Trump. The paper which Trump hates with a passion for holding him to account for his shady business deals, has taken to bending over backwards to paint him in a good light.
It’s led many to wonder what is going on in the newsroom. Why the sudden shift towards pulled punches and false equivalencies?
And there are signs that things are getting worse.
The New York Times had yet another opportunity to show it was capable of taking on Trump with its piece on the presidential forum. Instead, an odd series of events unfolded.
First, at the forum, Donald Trump said a number of insane, disturbing things. The sheer number of which seemed designed almost as a dare to the press to call him on it.
Here are a few things Trump said in one half hour to NBC’s Matt Lauer. This list is in no way comprehensive.
- Falsely claimed he opposed the Iraq War from the start. (He didn’t.)
- Suggested America should have “taken” Iraq’s oil before leaving. When asked to clarify, he floated the idea that America should have annexed the parts of Iraq with oil in them and set up permanent oil factories guarded by the U.S. military.
- Suggested the people giving him security briefings hate President Obama. When asked to clarify, he said he read their body language.
- Praised Vladimir Putin and argued that he was better than President Obama.
- Falsely claimed he was against military intervention in Libya. (He wasn’t.)
- Stood by earlier comments that blamed the scourge of rape in the military on the fact that women have been integrated into the armed forces.
- Corrected a soldier in the audience about the number of veteran suicides – and got it wrong.
Matt Lauer managed to challenge Trump on absolutely none of these points – any of which would be career-ending if uttered by a politician held to even a modicum of presidential standards. But as conservative pollster Frank Luntz put it, people shouldn’t expect much from Trump. He’s not a “politician.”
Yes, there's a different standard on foreign policy for Candidate Trump than Clinton.
He isn't a lifelong politician. #NBCNewsForum
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) September 8, 2016
So how did the New York Times handle this wealth of material? At first, they touched on some of it. Then, for reasons that nobody understands, scrubbed all of the damning quotes from their write-up. Instead, they wrote a piece that spent an inordinate amoutn of time on the fact that Hillary Clinton, during her interview with Lauer, looked “stilted.”
Gone was every mention of Putin or Iraqi oil. In came subtle digs at Clinton.
She appeared stilted at first, particularly when one Republican in the audience — a veteran who had held a top-secret naval flight clearance — said he would have been “prosecuted and imprisoned” if he had handled classified information as she did on her private email server. He charged that she had “clearly corrupted our national security.”
“I appreciate your concern and also your experience,” Mrs. Clinton began, and then launched into a lengthy explanation, describing the designations for classified material and how she had handled the most sensitive material “very seriously.”
The new piece, completely rewritten, came from an entirely new writer too, but one many Democrats might recognize. Writer Patrick Healy spent last week dodging questions about his previous journalistic failure – a piece that lovingly described Trump’s “pivot” to a softer tone on immigration, which completely ignored a rally the Republican presidential nominee had given that day which included wholesale smearing of immigrants, fear-mongering, and a return to many of the hardline promises Trump had launched his campaign with. The article was so off the mark that the New York Times‘ Public Editor felt the need to pen a lengthy piece describing just how things went so wrong.
Exactly one week later, here we are. We look forward to reading the apology for this one.
Featured image via Business Insider