Bozell & Graham Column: The New York Times, Savaging Its Enemies

October 5th, 2016 8:27 AM

On October 2, The New York Times published an admittedly “fragmentary” front-page story about Donald Trump’s taxes. The paper cited just three pages: the first page of Trump’s 1995 state tax returns filed in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Through these pages, the Times reported Trump claimed a $915 million loss, which could – emphasis on the “could” – have allowed Trump to avoid paying federal taxes for “up to 18 years.” The story was stuffed with speculation about what Trump may have “potentially” done.

The Times was typically harsh in tone. The tax records “reveal the extraordinary tax benefits the Republican presidential nominee derived from the financial wreckage he left behind” with his financial “mismanagement.” A tax expert declared Trump “has a vast benefit from his destruction” in the early 1990s, like he was Hurricane Donald.

What could be true might well be true, but when did idle speculation become a prestigious form of journalism? The political imperative to destroy this man is inescapable.

Everything the Times reports on Trump ought to require a mental disclaimer. They have vowed to expose Trump as a dangerously unbalanced man who is not a role model for our children. (Apparently, the Clintons are role models?) They have blurred any difference between the news pages and editorial pages by openly declaring how Trump “lies” on the front page. The Times said Hillary Clinton, by contrast, was only guilty of a “penchant for privacy” when her team lied and said she was merely “overheated” when she collapsed into a van.

This is the same newspaper that published a front-page editorial by Jim Rutenberg that argued a crusade against Trump was necessary, and that fairness was a trap. “Journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment.”

At a Harvard panel discussion, Times editor Dean Baquet insisted he would risk jail time to expose Trump on taxes. He would also tell his lawyers Trump’s tax records must be revealed because his “whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth.”

But do we really need tax returns to know Trump had some business failures and bankruptcy filings, and then he turned his empire around? Employing a Baquet standard – that the basis of a candidate’s appeal is the most urgent subject matter for investigation – why then wouldn’t the Times risk it all to expose feminist Hillary Clinton’s mistreatment of women, especially women accusing her husband of sexual misconduct?

What about those destroyed emails? Benghazi? The Clinton Foundation? Where’s the zeal anywhere in these last few weeks to drill down – even just toward – the truth?

Instead, the Times just published a story on October 3 headlined “Her Husband Accused of Affairs, a Defiant Clinton Fought Back.” Inside, the headline was “A Defiant Clinton Fought Infidelity Claims.” Two words were missing: “With Lies.” Reporter Megan Twohey displayed all the investigative aggression of Gomer Pyle.

This was the Times summary of Mrs. Clinton’s “bimbo patrol” involvement: “Mrs. Clinton’s level of involvement in that effort, as described in interviews, internal campaign records and archives, is still the subject of debate. By some accounts, she gave the green light and was a motivating force; by others, her support was no more than tacit assent.”

Times columnist Maureen Dowd at least quoted the memoir of George Stephanopoulos: “She had to do what she had always done before: swallow her doubts, stand by her man and savage his enemies.”

Or let the New York Times do it instead.