Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.
Latest from Clay Waters
The New York Times Sunday Review devoted its entire front page to unembarrassed, literal climate panic. It’s right there in the headline, over a blood-red background: “Time to Panic.” The subhead: “The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. And fear may be the only thing that saves us.” It was penned by New York magazine’s literary editor David Wallace-Wells, who is evidently trying his hand at apocalyptic fiction. He previously tried to instill panic in the population with his alarmist piece in the summer of 2017, “The Uninhabitable Earth.” Now he’s imported it to the paper, 3,000 words of it.
The New York Times’ reaction to the anti-Semitic controversies engulfing two freshmen Democrats shows that “whataboutism” -- trying to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy -- is no longer “the last refuge of scoundrels” but is back in favor. Mark Landler used Democratic-friendly rhetoric to change the subject and tar Trump as the one with the anti-Semitism problem, in “Trump, No Stranger to Jewish Stereotypes, Rejects Ilhan Omar’s Apology.” Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s story, “In Surprise Vote, House Republicans Lift Anti-Semitism to Political Issue,” also had a distinct “Republicans pounce” vibe, casting Omar and Rashida Tlaib as poor, passive victims of cynical Republicans:
As a half-dozen Democratic women gear up for the chance to take on President Trump in 2020, New York Times reporter Maggie Astor made the front page Tuesday with “How Sexism Plays Out on the Campaign Trail – Voters Prefer ‘Likable’ Women, Reinforcing Gender Biases.” The Times insisted: “When Hillary Clinton ran for president, her detractors called her abrasive and shrill, words rarely used to describe men....In the words of her detractors during the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton was abrasive and shrill. She was aloof. She was unlikable." Actually, the Times describe Republicans in such fashion all the time.
Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief for the New York Times, for some reason likened the United States to an ‘evil doppelganger’ in his coverage of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution: “For Iran, a Grand Occasion To Bash ‘Cruel Enemies.’” That would be the United States. He went full hagiography over the brutal Iranian regime, with no mention of the American hostage crisis or of the brutal crackdown of protests against Hassan Rouhani’s regime a year ago.
It’s almost predictable at this point: Democrats embarrass themselves, and the media frames it not as a Democratic error, but as a case of cynical Republicans “pouncing” for political advantage. The latest example was a New York Times story on the thoroughly botched embarrassment that was the launch of the radical Green New Deal: “Lawmaker’s Staff Flubs Green New Deal Plan, and G.O.P. Pounces,” the headline to New York Times environmental reporter Coral Davenport’s story. She let Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez team’s incompetence and fibbing off the hook and botched the controversy’s timeline to cover for leftist darling.
There was a consistency in stories from the New York Times Monday, with reporters taking left-wing jabs against two Democratic senators who have launched presidential campaigns The profile of Minnesota’s Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar launch in the snow by Mitch Smith and Lisa Lerer falsely tried to pose her as a non-threatening moderate: “Klobuchar Enters Race With Appeal to Center.” The front-page Kamala Harris profile was consistent with the Times’ previous “The Long Run” series of pieces on Republican candidates from 2012, profiling President Obama’s potential Republican opponents. In all cases, the subjects were attacked from the left by Times reporters.
New York Times’ reporter David Segal jeered supporters of Brexit, the 2016 vote in which Britain voted narrowly to leave the European Union, with a profile of a London radio host: “The Fame and Folly of Fighting Brexiteers With Logic -- A talk radio host wields facts, eviscerating Leavers and racking up YouTube clicks.” Segal is condescending and snide on the front page of Sunday Business, comparing Brexit voters to suicides, while relishing host O’Brien owning the stupid Leavers.
ew York Times movie critic A.O. Scott clearly had a liberal itch to scratch in his movie reviews Friday. Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird is about an N.B.A. rookie caught in a long strike who has a vision of fighting the league’s entrenched ownership. His take? “A Thrilling Slam Dunk Against Capitalism.” (Reminder: Scott is employed by a billion dollar organization,the New York Times Co.) Neither did he approve of Liam Neeson's new thriller: "I’m not accusing 'Cold Pursuit' of being casually sexist or accidentally racist. On the contrary: Its misogyny and racism strike me as perfectly deliberate..."
The New York Times deemphasized the truly ridiculously implausible and radical proposals in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez six-page “Green New Deal” when it gave it front-page play Friday: “Unveiling a ‘Green New Deal,’ And Ambition on a Vast Scale.” Instead of showing skepticism, the reporters gave the plan points for ambition and used euphemisms to describe the outlandish proposals: "Liberal Democrats put flesh on their “Green New Deal” slogan on Thursday with a sweeping resolution intended to redefine the national debate on climate change..."
The New York Times still loves Stacey Abrams, who delivered the official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. She also lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp -- but not without making unsubstantiated allegations of voter suppression, cheered on by the newspaper. Now, she’s on the path to the presidency, at least according to Times political reporter Astead Herndon’s “Supporters Nudge Democrat With High Aspirations to Aim Even Higher.” The online headline to his Thursday story: “Stacey Abrams Isn’t Running for President. Should She Be?”
New York Times Berlin bureau chief Katrin Bennhold, a native of Germany, doesn’t seem in tune with her home country, calling the idea of putting a speed limit on the autobahn a “no-brainer,” one tragically scuttled by the “far right,” and maybe, somehow, Hitler. “Speed Limit? Germans Voting With Lead Feet,” on the front page of Monday’s New York Times. Adolf Hitler makes a cameo.
There were lots of lefty angles to the New York Times coverage of President Trump’s well-received State of the Union address. White House reporter Peter Baker opened with a dig: "President Trump...signaled that he would continue to wage war for the hard-line immigration policies that have polarized the capital and the nation. " A fact-check article on the speech insisted socialism wasn’t the problem in Venezuela’s circle down the drain. And Annie Karni, lunging to prove Trump wrong, ignorantly asserted on Twitter: "Trump just ad-libbed 'they came down from heaven' when quoting a Holocaust survivor watching American soldiers liberate Dachau. Jews don't believe in heaven."
The front page of Monday’s New York Times featured national political correspondent Jonathan Martin’s “news analysis” on the Democratic meltdown in Virginia, now involving both Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax: "Trump Behaves One Way on Race. Democrats Demand Better From Their Own.” Martin rather desperately tried to change the subject from damaging stories about a racist Democratic governor into a story about how quickly the Democratic camp tosses their own bad apples.
New York Times' Ken Belson couldn’t confine himself to reporting on the Super Bowl itself, feeling obligated to tell readers how the spectacle failed by not embracing the social justice agenda of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick: "The presence of the civil rights leaders did not seem to win over supporters of the player, Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who in 2016 began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality against people of color." And music critic Jon Caramanica revealingly called Maroon 5’s refusal to play the left's political game “stubborn resistance.”
The headline looked promising: “The Six Forms of Media Bias” from the weekday newsletter of New York Times writer David Leonhardt. Would a confession of liberal media bias follow? Not really: "Conservative bias. It’s real, too. Fox News and talk radio are huge, influential parts of the media. They skew hard right, and they often present their readers with misleading or outright false information..."
There is angst in the Democratic Party over the party’s emerging hostile stance on Israel, and it finally broke onto the New York Times front page on Saturday. “Discord Over Israel Reveals Democrats’ Divide,” on two controversial new Democratic Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Both have gotten themselves into controversy with controversial, inflammatory statements about Israel, though the Times and other outlets have often sidestepped the matter. Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s new story makes up for the omission somewhat, though still pulls some punches and focus on Republican pouncing.
New York Times reporter Jaclyn Peiser paid tribute to BuzzFeed in the wake of layoffs at the site infamous for quizzes and lists. What made the article noteworthy were the final paragraphs, when Peiser tried to make the right wing the bad actor by painting as sinister some mocking "advice" given to laid-off journalists on Twitter as sinister: "Over the last week, many of the laid-off BuzzFeeders found themselves the recipients of ugly messages and tweets sent by trolls and alt-right Twitter accounts. The messages included some variation of 'learn to code'...."
After legislative moves in New York and Virginia to allow abortion far into the third trimester, accompanied by gruesome commentary in which proponents of the Virginia bill let slip that letting an infant die would be allowed both during and after delivery, the New York Times finally caught up with the caustic debate on Friday’s front page, under awful headlines, pro-abortion blandishments, and labeling bias. The Times reacted to those horrific comments with standard “Republicans Pounce” spin in reporter Vivian Wang’s “Republicans Seize on Late-Term Abortion as a Potent 2020 Issue.”
New York Times opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo mounted a silly defense for BuzzFeed, which recently cut staff, in “Media Layoffs As Democratic Emergency.” The column’s text box: “Last week’s job cuts suggest a reason for panic.” Panic? He’s worried about the decline and fall of that vital democratic-building journalistic titan -- BuzzFeed? "It’s the site that gave us The Dress and published The Dossier, a company that pushed the rest of the industry to regard the digital world with seriousness and rigor."
The front page of the New York Times Business Day on Monday featured two stories on Donald Trump and the media, one chiding his opinion journalism supporters, the other suggesting the mainstream press failed its mission by not stopping his election in 2016. Michael Grynbaum’s “Media Memo,” “2020 Looms, And News Faces Test Of Judgment” may have revealed more anti-Trump media bias than intended. Jim Rutenberg worries about Trump fans embracing Fox News-fostered "political conspiracy theories."