Wow: NYT Warns 'Teflon Candidate' Sanders Will Get More Scrutiny, Citing Controversies

February 23rd, 2020 6:18 PM

It’s not your imagination: Though The New York Times is undeniably liberal in its reporting, it has been distinctly cool in coverage of the most left-wing Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In 2016 reporters tried to pester Sanders out of the race against Hillary Clinton. Is it principled ideology, or partisan fear that their Democratic Party is blowing its best chance to oust Trump?

Either way, the paper fired a shot across Bernie’s bow Sunday with a story bluntly warning him to watch out, then laid out why, even using an old media insult to Ronald Reagan: “Sanders, the Teflon Candidate, Faces New Tests as a Front-Runner.

Lisa Lerer quickly raised controversies Sanders has mostly avoided, before his left-wing uprising became an electoral headache for the Democratic National Committee (click "expand," emphasis added):

In the early years, there was his commentary on gender relations featuring a rape fantasy, his support for the Sandinistas and his honeymoon in the Soviet Union.

Once he entered Congress, there were votes to shield gun manufacturers, a commitment to remaining uncommitted to the Democratic Party, and secret plans to mount a 2012 primary challenge against President Obama.

And more recently: the F.B.I. investigation into his family, the heart attack, the resistance to detailing the costs of his signature policy proposal, “Medicare for all.”

Senator Bernie Sanders has the kind of vulnerabilities that make political opponents salivate. Yet throughout his congressional campaigns, the 2016 primaries, and now his second White House bid, one rule has defined the senator’s political rise: Nothing sticks.

Now that durability is about to be tested in ways that Mr. Sanders has never experienced in his 50-year electoral career....


If Mr. Sanders’s rivals have been giving him a pass in debates and over policy issues, it is because they see no clear way to dent his Trump-like Teflon image....

Lerer circled back with examples:

....He has recanted his 1972 article about male and female sexual fantasies, which briefly imagined women fantasizing about rape, but such a piece of writing would still usually damage a candidate. His history of making supportive comments about Communist regimes, and visiting Nicaragua and the Soviet Union in 1980s, could reinforce the socialist labeling....

Lerer got in her standard feminism defense of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA):

“It is hard to say why she’s been treated much more harshly,” said Adam Jentleson, a Democratic strategist who is close to the Warren team. “At a certain point you’re only left with gender as an explanation.”

The paper’s anti-Sanders streak runs long. In June 2016, after the California results confirmed Clinton’s nomination, the paper ran “Hillary Clinton Made History, but Bernie Sanders Stubbornly Ignored It.” (Sanders’ “petulance” would be more understandable after the world learned the DNC had rigged the process on Clinton’s behalf.)

Previously, reporter Yamiche Alcindor had asked Sanders: “What do you say to women who say that you staying in the race is sexist because it’s getting in the way of what could be the first female president?”