Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.
Latest from Clay Waters
The New York Times indulged in some self-owning irony on Sunday’s front page under the byline of Jim Rutenberg and Ben Protess. The subject was American Media Inc., the tabloid company that publishes the National Enquirer: "Federal authorities examining the work President Trump’s former lawyer did to squelch embarrassing stories before the 2016 election have come to believe that an important ally in that effort, the tabloid company American Media Inc., at times acted more as a political supporter than as a news organization, according to people briefed on the investigation." The high irony of that sentence evidently escaped The Times.
“Teenagers Fight Climate Change, From the Front -- Meet the Leaders of a National Movement Called Zero Hour," reads the headline. Is it a press release? An opinion piece? No, a full-page “news” story in Sunday’s New York Times, , following the same laudatory tone and lack of journalistic rigor that characterized the paper's coverage of the last children's crusade, for gun control.. Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, intern-reporter at the New York Times, orchestrated the fawning interviews of six representatives of the ostensibly teen-led movement at the D.C. offices of the Sierra Club.
Israel, always to blame at the New York Times. A front-page photo of fleeing Palestinian protestors at the Gaza border was deceptively captioned: “Israel Strikes in Gaza – Protesters at the Gaza border flee from an Israeli air assault on Friday. One Israeli soldier and four Palestinians were killed.” The picture introduced Isabel Kershner’s story , “Israel Launches Broad Air Assault in Gaza Following Border Violence.” From neither headline would you learn that it was the Palestinians that attacked first by assassinating an Israeli soldier, with Israel retaliating. Kershner’s story also implied faulty timelines making Israel appear the aggressor.
The media is ready to convict President Trump of “treason” for his shaky summit in Helsinki with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and has been obsessed with Trump’s supposed “collusion” with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. But this new-found fear of all things Russia is more than a little politically expedient. The New York Times is just one outlet that dismissed the very idea of Russia as a threat back in the spring of 2012, mocking then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:" Two decades after the end of the cold war, Mitt Romney still considers Russia to be America’s ‘No. 1 geopolitical foe.’ His comments display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender."
New York Times' Alice Hines has blessed us with “The Ultimate List of Cool Happenings -- Man-free zones, a Native gathering, a leather weekend, witch camps, a trans pageant and music and dance events.” The full-page article was radically counterculture even for the Times -- so far left that segregating by race and sex, reviled in all other contexts, became totally “cool” again. “A gathering for non-binary Native Americans, and perhaps most “problematic” (to coin a phrase): “Sweden’s inaugural 'man-free' music festival.”
New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel was clearly smitten with Richard Ojeda, a Democratic congressional candidate in West Virginia, who rose out of the Times-supported teachers strikes in that state. The gushing headline matched the story’s enthusiasm: “How to Flip Coal Country? Ask the Democrat in Combat Boots.” Gabriel was busy arranging flattering vignettes for the Democratic candidate: "Even more than for his politics, Mr. Ojeda is known for his big personality, with a gung-ho idea of leadership and a rousing speaking style. He is George Patton with an Appalachian twang and minus the profanity."
Somini Sengupta made Wednesday’s New York Times front page with “In India, Summer Heat Becomes a ‘Silent Killer’ -- 111-Degree Days Hit Poor the Hardest.” First, insert the Mort Sahl joke about a post-Armaggedon Times headline: "World Ends, Women & Minorities Hardest Hit." Then notice that one obvious solution goes almost completely unmentioned: Air conditioning. Why not? That’s where the paper’s knee-jerk concern for the poor crosses its knee-jerk “save the planet” instincts. Air conditioning may be good for people, but “it’s hurting the planet.”
“Summer of Rage,” feminist author Rebecca Traister’s entry for New York magazine, actually attacked the Democratic Party and journalists from the left while defending harassment of Trump officials in public. The online subhead set the tone: “White men are the minority in the United States -- no wonder they get uncomfortable when their power is challenged.”
The labeling bias came straight from the very top of the New York Times lead National section story Monday. Richard Fausset reported from Georgia under the headlines, “A Race Pivots on Guns, Saws and Trucks – In Georgia’s heated G.O.P. runoff, two candidates for governor court voters on the far right.” Fausset played up the controversies and heated rivalry in Georgia, while a story on the emerging Democratic 2020 presidential choices was sedate and politely headlined: “Warren Is Warming Up for 2020. So Are Many Other Democrats.”
The front page of Sunday’s New York Times brought the expected comprehensive dissection of President Trump’s second Supreme Court justice nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in 4,500 words: “Trump’s Choice: Beltway Insider Born And Bred – Father Was A Lobbyist – Supreme Court Nominee Is Being Promoted as Business Friendly.” A photo caption online made the ideological toneclear: “The Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, center with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence, is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.”
President Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom was accompanied by attacks on British Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Saturday’s “fact check” by New York Times London-based digital editor Palko Karasz took objection solely to the attacks on Khan: “Gauging London’s Record On Crime and Terrorism.” Karasz claimed to employ “expert analysis,” but actually made excuses and blamed the Conservative government, inequality, and “austerity” -- anything but the actual mayor of London.
Things got frenzied at a House hearing on the federal investigation into possible Russia influence in the Trump campaign, as Republicans lobbed accusations at anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok, who responded by accusing them of playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, while a Democrat said he deserved a Purple Heart. Strzok’s play of the Russia card worked for the Times, where an editor liked his quote enough to make it the story’s text box: “Another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”
Reporter Penelope Green feted a "cute" new politically mixed couple in nauseating fashion and with a partisan edge in the New York Times. The mischaracterizations started in the subhead: "Margaret Hoover and John Avlon: Lessons of a Post-Partisan Union -- A great-granddaughter of a G.O.P. president and a centrist CNN anchor make peace. Green led off by ludicrously labeling Hoover a “conservative,” which is as inaccurate as the subhead labeling Avlon a CNN “centrist.”
The New York Times will never forgive conservative Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for taming his state's public unions and then surviving the vengeance of a union-funded recall election. It found another line of attack in Thursday’s Arts section: Book critic Jennifer Szalai’s laudatory look at The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by liberal author Dan Kaufman. Szalai idn’t mention that Kaufman, who has also contributed to the far-left Nation magazine, has written several passionate encomiums to Wisconsin unions for the paper.
California has released its annual “hate crime” report, and the media is eagerly pouncing on an opportunity to blame a statistically measured increase of race-based crime on Donald Trump. The Los Angeles Times and Newsweek took advantage to blame President Donald Trump’s "violent rhetoric" for "helping fuel the surge." Yet the uptick started in 2015.
The front page of Monday’s Boston Globe once again featured a hostile anti-Trump story by Annie Linskey, who saw racism in every turn of phrase and policy decision: “Trump's joy ride on a third rail: President turning caustic racial comments into policy.” Linskey showed no journalistic skepticism before tying every policy or idea Trump supports into one seamless racist garment.
The Boston Globe, which can make the New York Times look reasonable and moderate, pushed back ferociously against President Trump’s mockery of local hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a potential Democratic rival to Trump in 2020, accusing the president in an online headline of woman-hating and racism. The front page of Saturday’s paper featured reporter Annie Linskey’s attack: “With attack on Warren, Trump pushes more buttons: Talk of DNA test, swipe at #MeToo push more buttons.” The online headline was much sharper: “Critics say Trump’s insults of Warren were a double scoop of misogyny, racism.”
Now that Donald Trump seems ready to name another conservative to the Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Times suddenly realizes the Court is “polarized” and politicized, and pleads for a court free from ideology. This after years of pushing to discover abortion, gay rights, and universal health care in the “terse, old” document. Chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse lamented on Friday that “Political Polarization Takes Hold of the Supreme Court.” The text box: “A reputation for independence has faded, even before a new justice’s arrival.”
New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo is eager to be the left-wing Internet politics czar. He urged cracking down on wrong-think on Twitter in November 2017, by “look[ing] to the community for determining the rights of people on the platform.” His latest social media policing comes in Thursday’s Business Day, where he spent 1,400 words trying to start an employee uprising at Twitter, and apparently begging the social media platform to “censure” the President.
Reporters Liam Stack and Elizabeth Dias offered a Thursday New York Times story headlined “Why the Supreme Court Opening Could Affect Gay Marriage as Well as Abortion.” Besides taking sides on the issue of gay marriage, resumed the paper’s bad habit of superfluous ideological labeling, with ten “conservative” references in the 1,200-word report compared to a single “liberal” label, in the first sentence. After that, the paper referred to the left-wing support for gay marriage with the friendly term “L.G.B.T. groups.”