Now that President Trump has been vindicated and the Fat Lady is singing, it’s high time we hear from another matriarch– the Gray Lady.
The New York Times should apologize for misleading America — again.
Back in 2016, three days after Trump turned the world upside down with his election victory, the publisher and the editor of the Times wrote to subscribers. Their remarkable letter was in large part an apology for failing to understand the Trump phenomenon and for missing the signs that he could win.
“After such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions,” then publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and editor Dean Baquet wrote. “Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?”
While they also defended themselves, saying the paper “reported on both candidates fairly,” they promised to “rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor.”
As I wrote then, “Had the paper actually been fair to both candidates, it wouldn’t need to rededicate itself to honest reporting. And it wouldn’t have been totally blindsided by Trump’s victory.”
And now, as Yogi Berra once said, “it’s deja vu all over again.”
Because it didn’t keep the promise to report “without fear or favor,” the paper is facing a new storm of criticism. This time, of course, the topic is RussiaGate. And once again, the Times is accused of accepting and spreading fake news, and of missing the truth.
We don’t need a trial. Guilty as charged. The Times was way out front, along with the Washington Post, in peddling the Russia collusion hoax. And because of its prominence and the power of its news service, the vast bulk of the media followed the Times’ lead. It is the bell cow, and it led the media over the cliff by getting the big story wrong.
And not just one or two or even three times, but for more than two years, the paper of record acted like a prosecutor making the case that Trump was at least compromised by Russia, and maybe even conspired with Vladimir Putin to steal the election.
Hillary Clinton was selling — that Trump was the illegitimate president. There was almost no difference in what she said and what the Times said about Trump and Putin.
Now that special counsel Robert Mueller, whose integrity the Times praised for two years, has declared Clinton’s claims false, that truth needs to be accepted by the hate Trump media. And nobody in the print media, with the exception of the Washington Post, hates Trump like the New York Times hates him.
Front page to last, news stories, columns and editorials. Coverage of culture, education, foreign governments — most of it expresses views of someone who personally and politically detests the president of the United States. Tyrants in Asia and dictators in Latin America have it easy compared to the blistering coverage Trump gets.
In short, nothing has changed since 2016. And in both cases, the results were the same: The Times missed the story. Just as reporters and editors believed Trump couldn’t win in 2016
because they didn’t want him to, they believed the Russia collusion story because they wanted it to be true.
The episodes are linked by a cause — the collapse of standards at the paper. Executive editor Baquet, in the summer of 2016, decided that Trump was not fit to be president, a decision that opened the floodgates.
Day after day, page after page, so-called news stories started to read like editorials. Reporters were now free to give their opinion, and surprise, surprise — they all expressed the party line.
Over and over, Trump bad, Clinton good. She was dubbed “normal,” he was called “abnormal.” No bias there.
The Times’ newsroom was a giant bubble and, like all bubbles, group think dominated. Nobody inside realized how unfair the coverage was because they all agreed with it. Those who didn’t — and there must have been some — were either intimidated or marginalized. The paper says it believes in diversity, but hating Trump seems to be a litmus test.
Naturally, there were many signs over the last two years that the paper had not changed its stripes. Despite its promise after missing Trump’s rise, it almost instantly fell back into the same position of hostility once he became president.
The fixation on RussiaGate — for which it shared a 2018 Pulitzer Prize with the Washington Post — stands out, but it was far from the only example of biased coverage. Virtually everything Trump said and did sparked an avalanche of thunderous denunciation from reporters and opinion writers alike.
They didn’t just disagree with something. They usually went straight to impugn his motive. Most times, scurrilous quotations were attributed to anonymous sources. Who can fight anonymous sources? As for the economic boom, the Times, when it recognizes it at all, struggles to give Barack Obama the credit. Talk about a credibility crisis!
Lest there be any doubt about how reporters and editors feel about Trump, check out their social media posts where they remove even the fig leaves.
As I have noted, I take no pleasure in watching what was America’s flagship newspaper decline into rancid partisanship. Journalistically, I grew up at the Times during an era when legendary editor Abe Rosenthal imposed a no-opinion rule on reporters’ copy.
If you tried to sneak your opinion into a news story, it was removed, and objections were useless. If you didn’t like it, the door was open. These days, technology is disrupting and reshaping the media business and the Times has reinvented itself as a daily compendium of the war for social justice. Its pages are filled with identity politics, how unfair America is to illegal immigrants and breathless evidence that climate change will kill us any day now. It all fits into the paper’s advertised “mission.”
Just before Super Bowl Sunday, the big story in the sports section was the lingering pain and problems of retired players with brain injuries.
So be it. But neither Trump nor technology can be blamed for Baquet’s historic error in deciding that basic standards of fairness do not apply to covering this president.
Twice now, that decision has been proven to be sensationally wrong, and added to the growing distrust not only of the Times, but of the media in general.
By all means, the Gray Lady should once again say she is sorry for being wrong and missing the real story. But this time, she should do something about it.
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