New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet is going on a victory tour among his liberal media colleagues, celebrating his paper “Calling Out Donald Trump’s Lies,” the title to Friday’s “Inside the Times” podcast hosted by Susan Lehman.
After cueing up Trump’s claim that the Clinton campaign had started the “birther” myth, Lehman set up Baquet: “As it happens, that’s not true. It is what the New York Times traditionally calls a misstatement.”
Baquet: “It was demonstrably, unequivocally false, and he had to have known it, and that’s a lie.”
Lehman: “A lie. That’s just what the New York Times called it. Times executive editor Dean Baquet is here to talk about his decision to call out presidential candidates’ lies directly and in headlines on the front and the homepage of the New York Times.”
Baquet: “I thought this was an extraordinary moment. I think that he so clearly did lie. He kept talking about it for years....it was so clearly a lie. Politicians exaggerate all the time. Politicians exaggerate their records, they exaggerate their achievements....this was extraordinary, there was no question of motive, it was very public, it was proven wrong years ago, and he continued it and I think to have not called it a lie would have been sort of odd. It would have been false on our part.”
Neither editor Baquet or host Lehman questioned whether either Hillary Clinton could be accused of lies during her decades in public life and power, including Whitewater, the White House Travel Office, and more recent scandals like her lies to the public over her handling of classified documents and deception about her pneumonia diagnosis.
Two and a half minutes in, Baquet gave the tick-tock and showed his decision was universally popular in the news room: “In this case, what happened is that the reporter Michael Barbaro, who has written about Trump and others and his editor Carolyn Ryan, had the urge to do it, and they wrote I thought a perfectly pitched story. [Here’s what Newsbusters thought of it.] Carolyn came in and said, we actually want to use ‘lie’ in a headline online, and I said absolutely we should do it. And then when we got into the meeting where we were discussing the print front page, the only debate was, some people thought we shouldn’t lead the paper with the story, because it was an analysis piece with the word lie. And I often don’t weigh in on the print front page, because I think are many editors capable of it, but I thought this was a moment where the executive editor should way in and I said we should just lead the paper with it, and use the word lie in a headline, ‘cause I thought it was that extraordinary a moment.”
(It’s no surprise Michael Barbaro had the urge to dump on Trump, given his history of hostile anti-Republican reporting.)
Nine minutes into the podcast Baquet, perhaps sensing the conversation had become too aggressively partisan and Trump-phobic, made a lame nod toward Hillary: “By the way, I should say, I don’t want people to think we...we have also done very aggressive coverage of Hillary Clinton. One of the most important stories the New York Times has done in the last year, as far as I’m concerned, is a two-part series on Hilary Clinton’s decision-making in Libya, which was a story that illustrates her strengths and her weaknesses and was a really richly reported story.”
Lehman concluded the podcast: “Thank you, Dean Baquet, thank you for calling out lies and for your time.”
Baquet: “Thank you.”
The Times waved the “Lie” banner again in Saturday’s story reported by Patrick Healy, Amy Chozick, and Maggie Haberman: “Debate Preparations? Clinton and Trump Can’t Agree on That Either.”
Mrs. Clinton has a thick dossier on Mr. Trump after months of research and meetings with her debate team, including analysis and assumptions about his psychological makeup that Clinton advisers described as critical to understanding how to knock Mr. Trump off balance. Mrs. Clinton has concluded that catching Mr. Trump in a lie during the debate is not enough to beat him: She needs the huge television audience to see him as temperamentally unfit for the presidency, and that she has the power to unhinge him.
Tendency to lie on some issues (like his challenge to President Obama’s citizenship) or use incorrect information or advance conspiracy theories -- all of which opens him to counterattack from Mrs. Clinton or rebukes from the moderator.