Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.
Latest from Clay Waters
Is there any more the media can do to promote a new Hulu show, The Handmaid’s Tale, as an ominous parallel to the Donald Trump administration? Yes, apparently: A feature on the front of next Sunday’s New York Times Arts section, yet again promoting the show, based on the dystopian feminist novel by Margaret Atwood, which drops on Hulu April 26. Katrina Onstad, a Canadian journalist and movie critic, filed from the fraught set in Toronto earlier this year, after the trauma and travesty of Trump’s victory.
Reporter Somini Sengupta continued demonstrating her strange hostility toward Nikki Haley, the U.S envoy to the United Nations, in “Trump Envoy Aims to Show That Rights Are a Priority” in Wednesday’s New York Times. The text box read: “A discussion in the Security Council draws criticism.” It’s a follow-up to Sengupta’s previously, and widely condemned, Haley-bashing and ardent defense of the United Nations, which is evidently not at all “corrupt” like Haley rudely claimed. Sengupta tried to put Haley on the backfoot from the lead in her new story.
Georgia Democrat and newly minted liberal hero Jon Ossoff may have failed to take advantage of glowing media coverage and huge out-of-state donations by falling short in a special election to fill a congressional seat, but Thursday’s New York Times front page used Ossoff’s moral victory (?) to spur national Democrats to fight in another special election, for a House seat in Montana. Inside the paper, reporter Richard Fausset hyped Ossoff optimism even after he failed to win on Tuesday.
More strange new respect for the faithful on display in Monday’s New York Times, which suddenly gets religion when it is helpful to the political left (gay marriage and abortion opponents still reliably receive the Darth Vader treatment). The front of the National section featured reporter Fernanda Santos in Yuma, Arizona on a collection of Latino ministers “Preaching Gospel of Salvation for the Colorado River.” The text box: “Pastors pack sermons with tips to save a struggling waterway.” The new devil? Climate change.
New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis took a third bite of the chocolate Easter Egg on Tuesday, writing her third prominently featured story about the supposedly troubled White House Easter Egg hunt. (Yes, three stories, plus a video.) Her review of the Easter Sunday festivities on the South Lawn of the White House made the front of Tuesday’s National section: “Putting Aside Red vs. Blue for a Day (in Favor of Pastels) – Planned Late and Pared Back, Egg Roll Still Draws Thousands to the White House.” She took a lame metaphor for White House disarray and rolled with it.
You know it’s getting serious when the New York Times is sending its media columnist on a mission to Moscow, to find ominous parallels between the state of the Russian press, squelched and persecuted under Vladimir Putin, and the American media. Jim Rutenberg filed a 1,600-word report for Monday’s New York Times. The Times doesn’t do much these days to hide its adamant opposition and hostility to Trump, and neither did Rutenberg’s story and headline: “In Russia, a Pliant Press That Trump So Craves.” Could it happen here?
Earlier this month, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd criticized her paper for covering novelty stories at the expense of bread-and-butter game coverage. After talking about the tactics employed by the paper while covering the NCAA basketball tournament March Madness that focused on off-the-court stuff for a “sophisticated global audience,” a focus on international sports like soccer, and with “Groundbreaking investigative work” on problems like concussions and doping. As if to confirm similar concerns, the front of Thursday’s sports section featured the pressing matter of the Cleveland Indians baseball teams mascot Chief Wahoo, considered offensive by some activists: "Baseball Urges Indians To Phase Out Caricature."
Hollywood Reporter critic Daniel Fienberg found ominous parallels in The Handmaid’s Tale a series on Hulu that debuts its first three episodes April 26. The subhead: “Hulu's all-too-timely adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel is one of the spring's best new shows and makes Elisabeth Moss an immediate Emmy contender.”
New York Times reporter Alan Rappeport found a wedge between President Trump and his most fervent supporters on an issue the paper is reliably left-wing on. He tried to gin up a controversy on pro-immigration and "widely respected conservative economist" Kevin Hassett, picked to lead the president’s Council of Economic Advisers: “In Pick of Pro-Immigration Economic Adviser, the President’s Base Senses Betrayal.” The hostile ideological labeling of the "widely respected" Hassett's opponents was typical of the paper’s pro-amnesty stance on immigration, with what seems a purposeful blurring of the lines between legal and illegal immigration
Next Sunday’s New York Times Sunday Magazine will feature a long essay by left-wing historian Rick Perlstein: “I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong.” Approach with caution, warn two prominent conservative writers. National Review's Jonah Goldberg warns: “Perlstein’s essay offers a really good insight into how the Times has jettisoned so much credibility in the age of Trump.”
Hiboko Tabuchi of the New York Times wrote a supposed news story lamenting the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. It was presented both in headline and tone as an editorial: “What’s at Stake in the Cuts Proposed for the E.P.A.” The photo selection really rubbed in the emotional aspect of the administration’s brutal (proposed) cuts: the large set of four pictures include one showing a man with a hard-hat that spells FLINT, his face downcast, holding a young girl on his shoulder, right above one of a fleet of black security cars for new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Poor vs. privileged?
The front of Tuesday’s New York Times featured a long essay by Sarah Lyall on Brexit, “A Mighty City Trembles at a Global Crossroad -- With Britain Leaving Europe, Can London Remain a Capital of the World?” The online headline was stark: “Will London Fall?” The NYT made a big production of it, with big photos over the fold on the front and inside, with Lyall “mourning” the supposed death of the famously “tolerant....open-minded” city. Counter-arguments about national sovereignty and overweening bureaucratic dictates were quickly dismissed as irresponsible right-wing journalistic myths. Lyall's reporting has betrayed a consistent bitterness over Brexit: Before the vote, she had mocked the movement in a front-page story by evoking Monty Python.
The New York Times’ John Koblin made the front of Business Day Monday with yet another fawning article from the NYT about how the Trump presidency has given a liberal television comedian a new lease on ratings popularity: “How Colbert Finally Got on a Roll.” It’s basically the same article the Times has been running for two months:
The New York Times has already made several pilgrimages down to Georgia to flatter Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who may take a House seat for the Democrats in a special election to replace Republican Tom Price, who joined President Trump’s cabinet. Political reporter Jonathan Martin made Monday’s front page with yet another one, this one focusing on GOP disarray: “For the G.O.P., A House Race Blurs Identity.” The online headline was more direct: “As Georgia Vote Nears, G.O.P. Asks if Ideological Purity Matters Anymore.” Next to an odd, unflattering photo of two sad-sack looking Republicans at a debate, Martin sketched a Republican Party identity crisis.
The Democrats’ mid-term election hope, the man who may turn the Trumpian tide, is Jon Ossoff, a young progressive candidate for the Georgia congressional seat vacated by Tom Price. Ossoff hopes to triumph in the open primary in Georgia’s congressional district to be held April 18, and he has the whole of the New York Times reporting staff solidly behind him. On Wednesday, Trip Gabriel and Richard Fausset enthused, “Georgia’s Long-Silent Liberals Come Out for a Congressional Race," but that was only the latest bit of cheerleading.
As an intelligence surveillance scandal involving Donald Trump threatens to turn back on Susan Rice and the Obama White House, New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Matthew Rosenberg ran interference for the previous Democratic administration in Thursday’s edition with “Trump, Offering No Evidence, Suggests Rice Committed a Crime.” The text box: “A president’s attack on an ex-national security adviser is roundly rejected.” Newsbuster Curtis Houck caught the paper’s snarky headlines when the piece was first posted (and had its headline subsequently “improved” with that precious “offering no evidence” clause) on Wednesday, and the end result in print Thursday was equally in lock-step with Democratic talking points and a profound incuriosity about what Rice may have done.
Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News, posted Tuesday on the emerging controversy over the “unmasking,” by President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice, of the identities of Trump associates whose names were originally redacted in intelligence reports. The title to Dilanian’s piece, “What Is Unmasking, and Did Susan Rice Do Anything Wrong?” made it safe to assume that Dilanian’s answer would be “Of course she didn’t!”
So much for alternative points of view in the New York Times. With the news pages devoted to kneecapping the new administration, one would hope that a few right-of-center voices might at least slip into the weekend opinion sections. But the paper’s Sunday Review section is just as predictably, reflexively leftist. In fact, all you really need to read are the titles and teasers. Just for starters, the front featured a reported essay from the Texas border town of Brownsville. Keeping to the paper’s tradition of scaremongering on behalf of amnesty for illegals, the subhead read: “Like America, this place is split in two. One half is barbequing. The other is in danger of losing everything.” The online headline: “How Scared Should People on the Border Be?”
It’s an old New York Times labeling trick: Stamp the “conservative” label on the bad actors in any situation -- even if they are Soviet Communists, the enemy of U.S. conservatives during the Cold War. Sunday’s front page included an obituary written by Raymond H. Anderson, former Moscow correspondent for the paper, for the dissident Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. The ideological loop-de-loop goes off the rails, as the Times used the term “hard-line conservative” to describe a cadre of loyal, hard-core Communists who tried and failed to overthrow newly elected President Boris Yeltsin -- the same label it uses on present-day U.S. Republicans, among the world’s hardest foes of Communism!
On Thursday New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta “reported” on United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s criticizing the United Nations in a speech to that international body, in “American Envoy Calls U.N. Human Rights Council ‘Corrupt.’” The text box: “Praising the U.S. and assailing a panel without evidence.” From the start it read less like a news report than a line-by-line hostile fact-check: "The American envoy to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, described the United States on Wednesday as the “moral conscience” of the world, and she dismissed the United Nations Human Rights Council as “so corrupt” without offering evidence."