Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.
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The New York Times has learned its lesson on front-page headlines, making sure it injected plenty of anti-Trump context to lead its Thursday edition, after being vilified by the left for insufficient hostility toward Trump (and quickly changing a banner headline) on Tuesday. The headline over Thursday’s lead story posed no such danger to liberal groupthink, as it dutifully countered everything Trump did with a liberal rebuttal: “President Uses A Day Of Healing To Stoke Discord – Trip To Ohio And Texas – Trump’s Anger at Critics Eclipses His Gestures Toward Victims.”
The Columbia Journalism Review interviewed New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet over the Times changing its Tuesday morning lead headline after a left-wing social media mob complained it wasn’t sufficiently hostile to President Trump, in the wake of the mass murders in El Paso and Dayton. The paper’s own “Reader Center” also issued a mea culpa in “A Times Headline About Trump Stoked Anger. A Top Editor Explains."
Boston Globe staffer Teresa Hanafin’s daily e-mail newsletter downplayed the "news" angle to spew virulent anger toward both Trump and the Republican Party. Some of the fiery excerpts, delivered with a patina of ultra-cynicism, from Monday's offering: "Republicans don’t value people; they worship the blood money the NRA pours into their campaign coffers. If the slaughter of 20 first-graders couldn’t change that, nothing will. Get used to it....Let's be honest: As long as Republicans hold any power, the slaughter will continue."
The New York Times went to press for Tuesday’s print edition with the banner headline “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism.” But that accurate summation of what President Trump said about the mass murders in El Paso and Dayton did not please the left on Twitter, which demanded “context” about Trump actually being a racist demagogue. And the Times, which relies on the left for its readership, swiftly obeyed, showing repentance by admitting “The headline was bad” and changing it for the second morning edition to a more Trump-skeptical headline “Assailing Hate, But Not Guns.”
Two New York Times writers tried to use the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton to condemn not just Donald Trump and his rhetoric, but the policies of the Republican Party in general. The online headline deck to Charles Blow’s Monday column said it all: “Terror and Policy: 2 Sides of White Nationalism: The white supremacist terrorists and the white supremacist policymakers share the same mission.” David Leonhardt’s newsletter similarly used the shooting in El Paso to accuse conservatives of having a violence problem in general: “Conservatism has a violence problem.” It’s an easier argument to make when you ignore most actual left-wing violence.
The New York Times’s lead story Monday morning was of course the mass murder of 29 people in two mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. The second paragraph cast some blame at “angry words directed at immigrants...by right-wing pundits and President Trump.” The theme of Monday’s paper was to tie President Trump to the El Paso mass murderer. Peter Baker and Michael Shear’s “news analysis,” “In Texas Gunman’s Manifesto, An Echo of Trump’s Language,” handed flailing Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke (and several other Democratic opportunists) a microphone to blame Trump.
Reporters Reid Epstein and Jonathan Martin devoted 1,800 words on the New York Times Sunday front page to getting out the black vote against Donald Trump in 2020, in “Trump’s Words Fuel Racial Strife. How Will Black Voters Respond?” Along the way, they issued a conspiracy-agent theory about how Trump is trying to stifle blacks from voting Democrat by...mentioning his criminal justice reform legislation? "No modern president has ever vilified black Americans or sought to divide people along racial lines like Mr. Trump, while also claiming to be a champion of their economic interests."
The New York Times is still trying to make concern over “climate change” happen within the GOP, this time hyping the threat climate denial poses to the party’s prospects. Lisa Friedman, New York Times “climate change” reporter and former editor of ClimateWire, made the front page Saturday with “Climate, Taboo In G.O.P., Eats At Party Youth.” Friedman wrote: "While Donald Trump has led the Republican Party far down the road of denying the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change..."
Congressional reporter Carl Hulse enjoyed piling on Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell just a bit too much in Wednesday’s lead New York Times slot: “Pressure Mounts On Senate Leader To Secure Ballot – Some in G.O.P. Softening – McConnell Impedes Bills, and Seethes Over Tag of ‘Moscow Mitch.’” It’s Hulse’s favorite kind of story: Democrats gleefully putting Republicans under pressure, with Hulse cheering them on. Hulse tends to condone whatever political tactics the Democrats use against Republicans, however disreputable they might be: "Democrats pressed their advantage. And why not? The hashtag #MoscowMitchMcTraitor was trending on Twitter, and Senate Republicans of all stripes were being asked about the blockade."
Over the last few days, President Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to go after Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and “civil rights leader” Al Sharpton. The New York Times could not resist, featuring not one but two front-page stories Tuesday, while egregiously calling the racially inflammatory Sharpton a “civil rights leader” and blotting out his past offenses against decency. The Times lead story led with the race card: "President Trump widened his war on critics of color on Monday with new attacks on the Rev. Al Sharpton and other political opponents."
More strange new respect for religion in Monday’s New York Times, for “America’s First Gun Violence Minister.” What sounds like an idea for a satirical Babylon Bee story is in fact a prominently placed interview in the lead National section of the paper of record: Reporter Adeel Hassan, whose work “focuses on identity and discrimination,” reporting from Texas for “A Ministry Pushing Beyond ‘Thoughts and Prayers.’”
On Sunday, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters found himself deeply disturbed by what he hinted was racist criticism of four new liberal congresswomen. The four left-wing Democrats known as “The Squad” have replaced Nancy Pelosi had been replaced as a conservative enemy: "After barely eight months in office, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and three other progressive women of color have reached a level of notoriety that is virtually unheard-of for freshman House members, largely thanks to the kind of relentless conservative fire usually trained on far more senior Democrats....attacks on the congresswomen...show how broadly accepted Mr. Trump’s racial and cultural instigations have become in the Republican Party."
Liberal journalist fervor for the #MeToo movement comes packed with caveats and reservations when the target is Democratic politicians -- but it’s open season on conservative figures. Case in point: Former Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt’s Friday newsletter, which dealt with a New Yorker report by liberal journalist Jane Mayer -- a hypocritical defense of Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comic turned Democratic senator for Minnesota, who resigned after multiple allegations of sexual harassment, the most prominent from Leeann Tweeden, who had photographic evidence.
The New York Times Thursday devoted two-thirds of its lead National section to reporter Trip Gabriel’s profile of...left-wing Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who is not even in the Democratic presidential race? Why: Well, according to the headline, “He’s Not in the Race for President, but He Sure Sounds Interested.” Now there’s some solid news judgment. "Many people besides senators continue to say they wish he were a candidate as well."
Pro-Democratic hackwork in Thursday’s New York Times: A deeply silly “selfie” story (not even involving actual “selfie” photos) from the campaign trail of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. A step-by-step graphic of just how Warren fans got their pictures taken with the great one herself took up two-thirds of a page of the ostensibly valuable print news section of the paper of record: “How to Get a Selfie With Elizabeth Warren.” It took three Times employees to carve out this hard-news reporting gem: Thomas Kaplain, Tamir Kalifa, and Eden Weingart. The tone was light and positive throughout.
There was no honeymoon for Boris Johnson, the new Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in the New York Times. The same old hostility greeted him, and his push to make good on the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, known as Brexit: "After a lifetime of joking and blustering and maneuvering his way into jobs and then sabotaging himself with poor preparation and deceitful behavior, Mr. Johnson, 55, seems determined to prove he can put aside his court-jesterish ways and rise to the occasion."
The New York Times gave former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill a negative review in Thursday’s edition, terming it “shaky” and “halting,” even “excruciatingly awkward,” while tucking in rumors that he wasn’t fully engaged in the prosecution. Can one detect some frustration, even embarrassment in the paper’s coverage, now that the former special counsel, whose reputation for tenacity and “straight-arrow,” law-and-order omniscience the Times helped inflate, has flopped hard in public view? Now that Mueller’s shaky command of the details in his own report is public knowledge, we learn there were hints beforehand, which the Times apparently chose not to share.
Wednesday was Mueller Day on Capitol Hill. For seven hours the special counsel provided testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, carried live for those Americans still interested in his completed investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral process in 2016. The Times saw "conservative conspiracy theories" and griped that Rep. Devin Nunes was "desperately trying to portray Mueller, the F.B.I., the Democrats and the media as working together to take down the president.” Where could Nunes have gotten that idea?
On the front of The New York Times National section, Matt Stevens reported breathlessly on the reemergence of Wendy Davis (aka “Abortion Barbie”): “From Filibuster Over Abortion To Run for Seat in U.S. House.” As a Texas state senator, Davis notoriously attempted a filibuster of a state abortion bill in 2013, which made her, in Stevens’ words, an “overnight political star.” Then she badly lost her race for Texas governor. But never mind that: "Ms. Davis has often leaned on her back story to inspire voters and demonstrate her tenacity."
One interesting omission from The New York Times is a vital 2020 issue that the Times isn’t fact-checking Donald Trump on anymore: His accusations that Democrats favor “open borders.” Perhaps that’s because even some of the paper’s liberal columnists are worried that too many Democratic candidates, by pushing for the abolition of ICE and decriminalization of illegal border crossings, are in favor of de facto “open borders.” Qiu did so most vigorously in June 2018 with the bluntly headlined “No, Democrats Don’t Want ‘Open Borders.’”