Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.
Latest from Clay Waters
New York Times reporter Kate Zernike made Saturday’s front page with her take on how Christine Blasey's allegation against Brett Kavanaugh is playing with the public: “Swing District Supports Her, But Gingerly,” from Doylestown, Pa. Zernike was struck that no one she talked to brought up Anita Hill -- but what about Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband? Bizarrely, Zernike skipped Clinton and reached all the way back to President Ronald Reagan for blame.
The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation saga has led the New York Times back into its bad old distorted labeling habits, in which stories included the term “conservative” as often as they included conjunctions. Friday’s front page led off with “Religious Right Wary of Delays On Court Pick – Threatening to Sit Out Midterm Elections.” The 1,600-word story contained a whopping 15 “conservative” labels, a “religious right” in headline and one in the text, plus a “further to the right” for good measure. Meanwhile, the anti-Kavanaugh liberal side was only given a single ideological label (“liberals”) deep into the story:
As the last-minute accusation against Brett Kavanaugh was breaking, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman fired off a self-righteous mini-tweetstorm that showed an unusual absence of self-unawareness, even for a GOP-hater not lacking in conceit. The three tweets form a representative triptych of Krugman’s attack-dog persona, with equal parts attacks on his colleagues in the media and dire warnings for any on his Democratic side who might feign fairness and objectivity, which Krugman sees as a cowardly façade. Those two facets were sandwiched by the tweet showing his shocking lack of self-awareness: Calling a conservative "a smarmy, smirking, entitled and mercenary guy."
New York Times writer Matt Stevens seized upon a dubious angle regarding the last-minute assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, “Drinking Days Fondly Recalled, Raising Eyebrows.” Stevens’ story was manufactured wholly from bad-faith insinuation and innuendo, based on a light-hearted cracks by Kavanaugh in speeches about high school and law school drinking shenanigans that have been made in similar fashion a billion times before without comment. Even other mainstream outlets haven’t emphasized that angle, but the Times ran with it in Thursday’s edition, clarifying the paper’s hostility toward the Kavanaugh nomination and shameless willingness to use any means necessary to combat it:
The New York Times had (through Wednesday morning) refrained from full-court partisanship in its coverage of last-minute sexual assault allegations concerning Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But the paper’s editorial page went full blast against Kavanaugh, devoting lead editorials on Tuesday and Wednesday to anti-Kavanaugh and anti-Republican sliming, beginning with the tasteless headline Tuesday, “#Brett Too?” Only that thin, cowardly question mark separating it from an utterly wretched smear.
After last-minute accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Anita Hill is back in the spotlight, and Boston Globe reporter Stephanie Ebbert got prime front-page space Wednesday for an incredibly fawning interview of Hill, who accused her boss Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment near the end of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. Ebbert’s story is headlined like a lament, and both the headline and the story itself assume the guilt of both Thomas and Kavanaugh, who each happen to be conservative Republican nominees: “Happening again? Hill’s not surprised.”
New York Times reporter Adam Goldman passed along warnings from “law enforcement” (and, more importantly, liberal Democrats in Congress) that President Trump’s decision to declassify and release texts and documents related to the wiretap against his former adviser Carter Page would endanger national security: “Ignoring Security Concerns, Trump to Make Russia Documents Public.”
“Turncoat” is a term the New York Times has recently applied to, among other figures, Benedict Arnold, a Mafia boss, and the poisoned Russian agent Sergei Skirpal. Now it applies to Brooklyn State Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans and has given the Republicans a one-vote majority in the New York State Senate. Monday’s story read “As Other Disloyal Democrats Suffer, One Brooklyn Turncoat Is Just Fine.” Yet when the shoe is on the other foot, the paper is quite receptive.
New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall, fiercely anti-Brexit, has made it a pastime to belittle iconoclastic, shock-haired Conservative Party politician and Brexit proponent Boris Johnson, which she does in Sunday’s paper: “Witty and Shameless, He Aims to Run Britain – A Populist, Johnson Fits Trump’s Mold.” One can assume that the comparison to Trump is not intended as a compliment. She informed readers that "Moderate Conservatives regard him as stealthy and dangerous." But she didn't try to prematurely bury Johnson's political career, as she did in 2016 when she called him a liar in a news story.
If there was any doubting the political sympathies of Entertainment Weekly, the front cover of the Fall TV Preview hails the revival of the CBS hit comedy Murphy Brown, starrring Candace Bergen. It was revealing to compare how enthusiastically EW greeted the return of Murphy Brown, to how the magazine greeted the return of the comedy Last Man Standing, starring right-of-center actor Tim Allen -- with second-degree questioning of Allen's political beliefs.
New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris latest hit on a conservative foreign policy figure appears to have backfired in spectacular fashion. Harris's report isupposedly caught United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley for wild spending on her official residence, “Envoy’s View of City is Priceless. The Curtains? $52,000.” The text box: “A purchase was made at a time when the State Dept. was slashing its budget.” Or maybe not. The decision to purchase the curtains for the official residence, as well as the move to a new residence, was made in 2016, during the Obama administration.
The New York Times again provided favorable, euphemistic coverage to the nation’s largest abortion provider (er, "health care" provider), while finding ideology only among its enemies. Reporter Kate Zernike introduced Planned Parenthood’s new leader Dr. Leana Wen, while avoiding the word "abortion" as long as she could: "Planned Parenthood, under fire from conservatives in Washington and state capitols..."
Is the New York Times using a “Year of the Woman” reporting angle to sneak in unchallenging coverage of anti-Trump Democrats into their paper (and into higher office)? Kate Zernike’s profile of a New Jersey Democrat led the paper’s National section: “Jousting With Election Opponents and Wiping Runny Noses.” Zernike didn’tgo after her subjects with hard journalistic scrutiny, leading the cheers instead. And reporter Sydney Ember filed: “Molly Kelly Has a Message for Republicans: ‘Do Not Underestimate Me’
Journalist Jonathan Chait attacked President Trump with conspiratorial hyperbole in the September 3 issue of New York magazine, “Trump’s Enablers,” throwing around unhinged “Stalinist” and Lenin-esque” smears and calling Republican Congress “unindicted co-conspirators” for not investigating Democratic allegations against Trump with sufficient vigor (as if Democrats never fiercely defended Bill Clinton on partisan grounds).
New York Times reporter John Koblin hailed, in feminist terms, liberal CNN International journalist Christiane Amanpour taking over the old Charlie Rose slot on PBS with Amanpour & Company : “No Longer Dark, Clubby, Or Led by a Man." Koblin said that despite Amanpour's failure as a host of ABC's "This Week," she "remains a believer in her own idea of what American audiences want." But do American audiences really want a knee-jerk anti-Trump host that accuses them of worshipping “at the altar of the gun gods”? Koblin studiously ignored Amanpour's liberal slant.
The New York Times, which is always eager to help Republican candidates, insisted Marsha Blackburn would be making a tactical error in emphasizing her pro-life bona fides as the GOP’s candidate for U.S. Senate in Tennessee. Last month Dias embraced identity politics by celebrating Rashida Tlaib’s Democratic primary victory in Detroit. But the paper’s support for women only goes only to those with a “D” before their name.
The New York Times picked sides in a sporting event -- a conflict between top women’s tennis player Serena Williams and officiating umpire Carlos Ramos, who she tangled with during an enduring emotional on-court meltdown during her losing match against Naomi Osaka. Ramos eventually penalized Williams a full game in the controversial finals of the U.S. Open. The Times called out an umpire ruling against one female player in her match against another female player as...sexism?
New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak was harsh on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, suggesting his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week had no redeeming interest. Sunday’s front-page analysis by Liptak appeared under the harsh headline “A Simple Script: Saying Nothing, Over and Over.” The Times was far more accepting and excusing of evasive testimony from Obama's nominees.
New York Times sports reporter John Branch’s feature on the reemergence of Tiger Woods hassled the golfer for not criticizing President Trump: "That his re-emergence comes in the Age of Trump is a delicious coincidence, wrought with complexity that Woods would rather avoid....I asked Woods -- the son of an immigrant mother and an icon to minority communities, on a first-name relationship with a president many people of color consider a racist...'Do you have anything more broadly to say about the state, I guess the discourse, of race relations in this country?'"
New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse once again rationalized and trumpeted childish and undignified Democratic tactics during Senate Judiciary hearings, in the party’s cynical yet (so far) failed attempt to derail Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Hulse on Saturday celebrated the Democrats showing their voters "that they would not be bulldozed by Republicans."