New York Times reporter Nicholas Fandos fact-checked President Trump under the leading headline “The Truth Behind a Lie on Voting Fraud.” The paper is quite pleased with its new word, like a child who learns a bad one, and shouts it as often as it can. The online headline was even more blunt: “Trump Won’t Back Down From His Voting Fraud Lie. Here Are the Facts.”
But is Trump stating a proven falsehood? No, although he provides no confirming evidence. But that’s not the same thing as a conscious lie. The Times then did its best to downgrade a previously respected piece published at the Washington Post to a mere blog "hosted" by the paper.
During a private meeting with congressional leaders on Monday, President Trump asserted that between three million and five million unauthorized immigrants had voted for his Democratic opponent and robbed him of a victory in the national popular vote.
There is no evidence to support the claim, which has been discredited repeatedly by numerous fact-checkers.
That did not stop Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, from standing by the president’s words on Tuesday during a briefing with reporters at the White House. “As I said, I think the president has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has,” Mr. Spicer said.
That much appears to be true. Mr. Trump repeatedly raised doubts about the integrity of the American voting system in the period before the election in November and has falsely said since his victory that millions of people voted illegally.
Pressed to present the evidence on Tuesday, Mr. Spicer appeared to conflate two different studies that Mr. Trump’s staff had previously cited in defending his claim. “There’s one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who voted were noncitizens,” Mr. Spicer said. “There’s other studies that have been presented to him.”
Under the smug sub-head “Here are the facts,” the paper jumped on a Washington Post piece by two professors from October 2014.
Neither study Mr. Spicer apparently referred to supports Mr. Trump’s claim.
The first study was conducted in 2014 by professors at Old Dominion University and discussed on Monkey Cage, a blog hosted by The Washington Post. Using data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the researchers found that 14 percent of noncitizens who responded to the survey in 2008 and 2010 said they were registered to vote.
The problem is that the study relied on flawed data and was roundly criticized by political scientists who said that a more careful examination of the data revealed no evidence that noncitizens had voted in recent elections.
The Times oh-so-carefully separated the now-toxic "Monkey Cage" page from the pristine mainstream media outlet the Post: “Monkey Cage, a blog hosted by The Washington Post...” But previous NYT mentions of Monkey Cage hooked it much more closely to the Post, and indeed, the presentation is the same as any other piece the Washington Post publishes on its website, and there has been no retraction or correction to the piece.
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Here’s a robust sample of how the NYT previously labeled Monkey Cage. Note the lack of evasive “hosted” verbiage:
“The Post’s Monkey Cage blog”
“...wrote for the Monkey Cage at The Washington Post”
“The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage”
“...the Washington Post’s political science blog, Monkey Cage.”
“...writing at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage”
“....writing for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog”
The Washington Post own fact-checkers did the same thing, pathetically throwing its own company under the bus, Michelle Ye Hee Lee issuing cease-and-desist orders to Trump staffers who dare suppose a piece published on the Washington Post was actually published on the Washington Post: “The first study that Miller referenced was published two years ago in the Monkey Cage, a political-science blog hosted by The Washington Post. (Note to Trump’s staff members: This means you can’t say The Washington Post reported this information; you have to cite the Monkey Cage blog.)”
It's not the first time the New York Times has downgraded something after it became embarrassing to the left: Remember Sandy Berger? The Times reacted to Bill Clinton’s former national security adviser stealing (and then “losing”) classified intelligence documents from the National Archives by calling him an "informal,unpaid adviser" to the John Kerry campaign in July 2004. Yet a month earlier the Times had called him one of Kerry’s two “top foreign policy advisers.”