Halperin: NYT ‘Putting Their Finger on the Scale Against’ Trump

Ever since The New York Times published numerous sexual assault accusations against Donald Trump on Wednesday the GOP nominee has been threatening the file a lawsuit against paper. In a response to Trump’s threats, the paper’s legal team put out a declaration basically saying “bring it on.” Mark Halperin, the managing editor for Bloomberg Politics, took exception with the Times’ message on Thursday, “What I object to, is that I think the paper is making a big mistake, even though it is the lawyers and not the editors.

In fighting with Donald Trump, in making additional sort of ad hominem accusations against him, they should be speaking in the paper, in their journalism,” Halperin continued:

And they did some great journalism yesterday. And they should do their arguing in court if necessary. But to put that letter in public making those kind accusations, if my news organizations did that, I would be uncomfortable. We have to be fair and even in this campaign, and not basically take sides and say this is an accurate portrayal of who Donald Trump is.

His co-host John Heilemann disagreed, saying that Trump had all of this coming to him, “Look, what they said was in that paragraph, is they listed things that Trump as said  himself, and then said these are all things that-- Trump's image has not been damaged because Trump has brought a lot of this on himself.” He also said that Trump probably would not sue the paper and even if he did, “on the level of legality, The New York Times wins this case hands-down.”

Halperin came back with a blistering rebuke of the Times’ strategy for dealing with Trump, stating, “…they’re putting their finger on the scale against him more than they need to…” He argued that their journalism should be able to defend itself and that their lawyers didn’t have journalist ethics in mind when they issued their challenge to Trump. “The lawyers are trying to run a legal argument, not trying to uphold the standards of the paper as far as I’m concerned,” he concluded. 

Transcript below:

Bloomberg
With All Due Respect
October 13, 2016
5:09:34 PM Eastern

MARK HALPERIN: Donald Trump is waging a war in the media now as part of his fight back. He has mostly targeted The New York Times. Last night after they posted the story, Trump's campaign called for a retraction, threatening legal action, a warning that Trump repeated in West Palm Beach.

…                                               

The Times legal team responded to the Trump campaign today with a terse letter that read in part, "Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation of Mr. Trump. Through his own words and actions, has already created it for himself. We publish newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes Americans citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say, and that the law of this country forces us and those who dare to criticize him to stay silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have the court set him straight."

John, in this fight now that’s still escalating between the paper of record and the Trump campaign -- who is going to win?

JOHN HEILEMANN: Well, I will tell you what's not going to happen, and who’s not going to win in a legal case, is Donald Trump. I don’t think he would file a legal case because he would face discovery, for one thing. And I don’t think he would file a legal case, because he would lose. We have law in this country around libel. It’s governed by a case called New York Times v Sullivan. Where to win a libel case you need prove the media outlet exhibited actual malice; knowledgeable falsity or rectal reckless disregard for the truth. None of these stories especially these in the Times come anywhere close to that standard so, there will be no lawsuit, and the Times will – at least on that level I don’t know about the court of public opinion or politics. But on the level of legality, The New York Times wins this case hands-down.

HALPERIN: Every news organization in the country has to report with care on WikiLeaks now, on Trump accusations. We’re close to the election, everybody has to take care getting it right is more important than fast. The Times story seems perfectly appropriate. They talked to the women involved, they asked the Trump campaign for a response, they did talked to some of the other people involved. But it is possible that the women's accounts are not wholly accurate, even possible that they’re not both—that they both are not telling the truth. It’s possible. The paper, though, gave them a chance to tell their stories and gave Donald Trump a chance to respond.

Tell the Truth 2016

What I object to, is that I think the paper is making a big mistake, even though it is the lawyers and not the editors. In fighting with Donald Trump, in making additional sort of ad hominem accusations against him, they should be speaking in the paper, in their journalism. And they did some great journalism yesterday. And they should do their arguing in court if necessary. But to put that letter in public making those kind accusations, if my news organizations did that, I would be uncomfortable. We have to be fair and even in this campaign, and not basically take sides and say this is an accurate portrayal of who Donald Trump is.

HEILEMANN: I don’t—Look, what they said was in that paragraph, is they listed things that Trump as said  himself, and then said these are all things that Trump's image has not been damaged because Trump has brought a lot of this on himself. They quoted his own words. I mean, how is that an ad hominem?

HALPERIN: Because they’re putting-- ad hominem by not be the right phrase, but they’re putting their finger on the scale against him more than they need to do to commit the journalism that they did.  And that should speak for itself, I think. The lawyers are trying to run a legal argument, not trying to uphold the standards of the paper as far as I’m concerned.

HEILEMANN: It didn’t bother me that much. 


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Tell the Truth 2016 CyberAlerts Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Media Bias Debate Covert Liberal Activists Cable Television Bloomberg TV With All Due Respect Major Newspapers New York Times Video Mark Halperin John Heilemann Donald Trump