NY Times Exec. Editor: Trump Must Be Called 'Liar,' But Hillary's Just a Normal Exaggerating Politician

September 23rd, 2016 11:30 AM

On Thursday's Morning Edition, National Public Radio host Steve Inskeep interviewed New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet  regarding the paper’s provocative decision to overturn journalistic convention in the wake of Donald Trump’s success and to start reporting his alleged misstatements as “lies."

But when asked about HIllary, Baquet apparently forgot Clinton's 25 years of public prevarication: “I think all politicians obfuscate, exaggerate, etc. I think that that's what I would say about Hillary Clinton and most other politicians....I don't think Hillary Clinton, to be honest, has crossed the line the way Donald Trump did with the birther issue.”

Inskeep set the scene: “The other day, The New York Times published a story. It examined the way that Donald Trump's presidential campaign promoted his tax plan. Trump had offered a big tax break to businesses. His campaign told a leading business group that he supported the tax break, and he got their endorsement. Then his campaign told independent budget analysts he was against the same tax break. The point of this story for our purposes here is that the Times called this a lie -- specifically, the trillion-dollar lie. The Times is using that word lie quite often in its coverage of Donald Trump, so we've called Dean Baquet, who is the paper's editor, to talk about its coverage of the Republican candidate.”

He asked Baquet: "Has something changed in the way you cover and write about Donald Trump?"

Baquet: “...The simple answer is yes. Politicians often exaggerate their records, obfuscate, say they did something great when they -- when it wasn't so great. I think in the last few weeks, he sort of crossed a little bit of a line. For me, the moment was the birther story, where he -- he has repeated for years his belief that President Obama was not born in the United States. That's not an obfuscation, and that's not an exaggeration. I think that was just demonstrably a lie, and I think that lie is not a word that newspapers use comfortably.”


Baquet: “And I think that was the case with birther. I mean, I just -- I think to say that that was a falsehood wouldn't have captured the duration of his claim -- to be frank, the outrageousness of his claim. I think to have called it just a falsehood would have put it in the category of usual political fare, where politicians say, you know, my tax plan will save a billion dollars but it's actually half a billion and...”

Inskeep challenged the Times editor: “Are you telling people how to think?”

Baquet: “No. No. I think that this just so -- it would almost be illiterate (laughter) to have not called the birther thing a lie.”

Inskeep noted that not even NPR has placed its thumbs on the scale to the extent that Baquet and the Times has: “The reason I ask about that is because NPR, at the moment, has come up with a slightly different formulation. And the senior vice president of news wrote, (reading) we give citizens the information they need to make the choices the democracy asks them to make. We should not be telling you how to think. We should give you the information to decide what you think. Do you think you're following that same standard when you call Trump a liar?”

Baquet: “I think that -- I think I'm using the same standard. I'm just using a different word. I think I'm using a more accurate word.”

Inskeep then raised the obvious comparison: “How would you describe Hillary Clinton's relationship with the truth?”

Baquet predictably whiffed: “(Laughter) I think all politicians obfuscate, exaggerate, etc. I think that that's what I would say about Hillary Clinton and most other politicians.”

Inskeep: “Have you been using the word lie very much with Hillary Clinton?”

Baquet: “I don't think Hillary Clinton, to be honest, has crossed the line the way Donald Trump did with the birther issue.”

Clinton hasn’t crossed the lying line? Perhaps the Times executive editor hasn’t been paying attention to current events for the last 25 years. Lying to the public about her private server and classified emails, and of course her career record of whoppers, from Whitewater up to her recent pneumonia diagnosis.

Baquet may be blind to his own biases. Last November, when asked by Charlie Rose: “Why does [sic] so many people think The New York Times is a liberal newspaper?” he lamely responded that since the Times has a business section and wealthy consumer items, that somehow makes the paper not liberal. As if the term “limousine liberal” doesn’t exist and there are not tons of wealthy leftists on both the East Coast and Hollywood:

I’ll tell you why I don’t think it is true and then I’ll tell you why people think it’s true. I don’t think it’s true because I think if you look at the whole of The New York Times and not just the front page, look at the whole of The New York Times, I can make the case that The New York Times writes a lot of stories about business, and some people even think we’re pro-business. I can make the case that some people will look at our feature sections and say our feature sections extol wealth. We’re gonna have a story tomorrow about big auctions. I think if you look at the whole of The New York Times, that’s not true.

I think the reason people think it, is first off our editorial page is liberal, and I think some people can’t distinguish between the part that I run and the part that Andy Rosenthal runs. I think that’s one reason. And the other reason is we’re a New York urban paper. So we are, you know, we are, we sort of drink the waters of New York and it influences -- you know, we have same-sex marriages in our wedding announcements which if you live in certain parts of the country feels uncomfortable. That’s why I think it is.