Hours before President Trump's contentious Tuesday press conference, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters’ story on President Trump’s controversial response to the racist violence and killing in Charlottesville was posted online: “Theories Abound Over Meaning of Trump’s ‘Many Sides’ Remark.”
Peters did talk to some conservative media and was thus able to provide some useful countervailing facts about left-wing protester violence from the likes of the window-smashing, bat-wielding “anti-fascist” movement Antifa. Those facts would probably be news to a Times readership that wouldn’t have read about them in the paper. But Peters' usual hostility to the GOP was on full view, this time with extra Twitter snarling at conservatives:
There is no shortage of theories about why President Trump was so cagey in blaming “many sides” for the white supremacist-fueled violence in Virginia over the weekend.
Some suggested the president did not want to alienate whites who voted for him out of a sense of racial grievance. Others said he was offering his white nationalist supporters a wink and a nod. Yet another concluded advisers like Stephen K. Bannon must be influencing the president in dark ways.
But there is an alternate explanation, one that is espoused by many on the right and repeated on an almost daily basis in the conservative news media that consumes so much of the president’s attention and energy.
In this version of events, a violent and dangerous left fringe is ignored by news media that would rather elevate far-right extremism as the nation’s more urgent threat. This view of the left as unhinged and anarchistic has become popular with some Republicans who insist that Democrats still refuse to accept Mr. Trump. They seek to stoke powerful emotions behind perceptions of excessive political correctness and media bias.
In his reluctance to pin the blame on any one element of the protests, Mr. Trump seems to have concluded what many other conservatives did about the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va.: As tragic as it was, it was incited by a small, unrepresentative group of bigots purporting to speak for the right whose antics would be exhaustively covered in the news.
He quoted Federalist publisher Ben Domenech and included a recent Federalist headline: “White Supremacists Were Not the Only Thugs Tearing Up Charlottesville”:
Mr. Trump and conservatives have pointed to several recent episodes as evidence of the left gone mad. They include the comedian Kathy Griffin’s posing for a picture with a fake severed Trump head, and a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” that featured a Trump-like actor as the emperor who is fatally stabbed onstage.
Some seized on the shooting that seriously injured Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, at a congressional baseball team practice in June as further proof. One recent web video from the National Rifle Association accused liberals of attempting to “bully and terrorize the law abiding” as it implored Americans to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”
But never mind all those examples (and many more he could have mentioned); the right-wing (yes, not just neo-Nazis but those right-of center) remains the true danger:
But the tragedy in Charlottesville -- specifically, the death of a young woman at the hands of a Nazi sympathizer who the authorities said ran her down with his car -- undercut the notion that the black-masked radical leftists who smash windows and hurl firebombs are an equal menace.
Nor is it backed up by data on political violence. Of at least 372 murders that were committed by domestic extremists between 2007 and 2016, according to a study by the Anti-Defamation League, 74 percent were committed by right-wing extremists. Muslim extremists were responsible for 24 percent of those killings, and the small remainder were committed by left-wing extremists, the study concluded.
Actually, those figures above aren’t in the report Peters linked to. They can be found in an ADL press release about the report, which also states this tidbit on current events that Peters skipped: “For the first time in more than 30 years, right-wing extremists were not responsible for the most extremist-related killings in the U.S. White supremacists and anti-government extremists committed a comparatively low number of murders in 2016, but at the same time were responsible for a high amount of non-violent activity, much of it tied to the presidential election.”
Peters did let Commentary editor Noah Rothman make a media bias point:
“You don’t have a ton of reporters banging on the doors of Democrats asking them to denounce Antifa,” he said, referring to the militant Marxist-inspired group that rioted at Mr. Trump’s inauguration and often shows up looking for confrontation at sites where conservative writers like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos are scheduled to speak.
Then Peters shifted to Trump blame, with several paragraphs devoted to fringe figure Alex Jones and his offensive allegation that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked:
There is also a new political term to describe the circular firing squad in which right and left have blamed the other for the country’s degenerating political debate -- “whataboutism.”
Guy Benson, a conservative writer and an author of the book “End of Discussion,” which argues that the left has tried to shut down political debate by declaring certain topics off the table, said he sees a “whataboutism overreach” among some conservatives.
But on the other hand, he said, “Are we allowed to point out that left-wing violence is a problem and did probably contribute to what happened in Charlottesville and not be compared to Hitler?”
He said that conservatives would be better served by finding other ways to make points of media bias and political double standards.
Peters was only half-sneering in his story, reserving his full-on sneers for Twitter on Tuesday. Peters retweeted Mark Levin who had linked to an article from the Daily Caller called “Left-Wing Agitators Call For Escalated Tactics In Response To Charlottesville.” Peters snarled sarcasm aimed at Levin: “More ‘but Antifa... but Kathy Griffin... but...’”
This is the tweet Peters used to link to his own story: “Many Sides? Actually, it's just one that kills people. But here's why Trump keeps saying it.” Not for lack of trying, as we learned from the case of Rep. Steven Scalise, the target of an assassination plot by a Bernie Sanders supporter, James Hodgkinson.
Peters also retweeted a mild observation by Commentary writer Noah Rothman with this crack: “Gee, maybe Charlottesville broke through more because people DIED. More "Yeah but" faux equivalence from the right.”
For evidence that the Times really is soft-pedaling Antifa’s radicalism and violent nature, see Tuesday’s story by Farah Stockman and her reluctant, mealy-mouthed description of Antifa’s violence in Tuesday’s paper, and of Sheryl Gay Stolberg having to apologize on Twitter for daring to initially characterize the anti-Trump protesters in Charlottesville “as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” The paper’s education supplement also helped the movement soften up its violent image.