NYT Exec. Editor: Fox News, CNN Campaign Coverage ‘Bad for Democracy'

October 28th, 2016 4:07 PM

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet criticized the coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign by the Cable News Network and the Fox News Channel as being “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions” in an interview with the Financial Times published on Friday.

“This mix of entertainment and news, and news masquerading as entertainment, is kind of funny except that we now have a guy who is a product of that world nominated as Republican presidential candidate,” Baquet stated.

According to an article on the Huffington Post website written by Senior Media Reporter Michael Calderone, “Republican nominee Donald Trump proved to be an early ratings bonanza for TV networks that in turn helped boost his candidacy by allowing him to routinely call in to news shows” and “failing to challenge his bogus claims.”

Calderone asserted that those two cable news channels rewarded “rank bigotry” and aired “evening rallies live without serious fact-checking of what he said on stage. The excessive airtime helped push Trump's rivals to the margins during the Republican primary, though scrutiny of the cable networks increased -- and across the news media more broadly -- as he grew closer to winning the nomination.”

“The Times has had a rocky relationship with Trump, who has given the paper significant access through dozens of interviews this election cycle,” the reporter noted, “while simultaneously blasting the paper at rallies and on Twitter.”

“Trump has talked of suing the Times on several occasions, though so far these threats have fizzled out,” Calderone stated.

In the Financial Times interview, Baquet also criticized CNN’s hiring of former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, who bullied the press while on the job.”

“He also continued getting paid by the campaign once he was on CNN’s payroll while promoting his former boss on air,” the Huffington Post reporter stated. “Baquet called the hiring of Lewandowski 'outrageous' and described the network commentator as 'a political shill.'

“While Baquet acknowledged Fox News employs 'great' journalists like Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace,” Calderone reported, he said the network “at its heart is not a journalistic institution.”

Baquet said that Fox News provides “some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience,” and disgraced former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes “won’t go down as one of the great journalists of his time.”

But as NewsBusters previously reported, Baquet has claimed that the Times' coverage of the GOP presidential candidate has transformed journalists into “truth tellers.”

The assertion came during an interview with Ken Doctor, news industry analyst with the Nieman Lab website, who quoted Baquet as stating: “Donald Trump has changed journalism by making it easier for reporters to write 'This is just false.'”

“Baquet compared this campaign to the 2004 election, and how in his tenure at the Los Angeles Times, they couldn’t use language that strong to denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who ran ads seeking to debunk John Kerry’s tales of Vietnam heroism.

Nowhere in this interview transcript is a mention of the lying and document destruction and press inaccessibility of Hillary Clinton’s camp. This matches Baquet’s prior interview with Morning Edition National Public Radio host Steve Inskeep, when he insisted Hillary’s lies were much more like the average politician obfuscating and exaggerating.

“I’m wondering what kinds of challenges the conundrum Donald Trump has caused,” Doctor noted. “It’s so far beyond normal fact-checking. How have you come to peace with how you cover Donald Trump?”

“I think that everybody went in a little bit shell-shocked in the beginning, about how you cover a guy who makes news constantly,” Baquet responded. “It’s not just his outrageous stuff … he says things that are just demonstrably false.”

“I think we now say stuff. We fact-check him. We write it more powerfully that it’s false,” the executive editor added.

Apparently, Baquet regrets his then-newspaper’s coverage, which used measured language. This was the apparently cowardly pro-John Kerry approach in an article in 2004:

What military documentation exists and has been made public generally supports the view put forth by Kerry and most of his crewmates -- that he acted courageously and came by his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts honestly.

But what actually happened about 35 years ago along the remote southern coast of Vietnam remains murky. Some of Kerry's own recollections over the years, as presented in two biographies and many interviews, also have been inconsistent.

That's quite a different attitude from Baquet's view regarding how cable news has covered Donald Trump's campaign, but it's obviously common for executives in the liberal New York Times.