The New York Times has run advertisement underlining how "the truth is more important now more than ever." But they are still publishing accusations without evidence. Take media reporter Michael Grynbaum's story on left-wing media hero Seymour Hersh's life of "Making the Mighty Sweat." Hersh came to fame for reporting the massacre of Vietnamese civilians by American forces at My Lai. He has a new memoir out:
As with any Hersh production, Reporter has news. He recalls hearing a tip that Richard Nixon’s wife, Pat, went to the emergency room in 1974, shortly after the Nixons had left the White House, saying her husband had hit her. (Mr. Hersh writes that he made a mistake by not reporting this at the time; the Nixon family denied similar allegations of domestic abuse when they surfaced in years past.) He describes Lyndon Johnson expressing his displeasure over an article by meeting a reporter at his Texas ranch and — there is no pleasant way to put this — defecating on the ground in front of him.
Does Hersh need any real proof of these alleged events? These presidents aren't alive to defend themselves. I tweeted at CNN's Brian Stelter that his old newspaper wasn't really beyond pushing unsupported gossip. He promoted the story in his newsletter with just a quote, and not this.
(In the same vein, Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith asserted without any evidence on Twitter that Melania Trump's post-surgery privacy "could be about concealing abuse. I wish that it was a ludicrous prospect. I wish that the @POTUS wasn’t a man with a history of abusing women, including those to whom he is married." Insert joke here: "Rolling Stone never gets abuse stories wrong." David Frum also imagined that scenario out loud on Twitter.)
At least when Hersh asserts he shared marijuana with presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy and future governor of California Jerry Brown, someone's alive to deny it: "A spokesman for Mr. Brown, contacted for this article, called the anecdote 'a complete and total fabrication.'"
At least Grynbaum eventually noted Hersh is controversial for his insistence that Pakistani government officials knew in advance the Americans were coming into their country to take down Osama bin Laden:
“It’s pretty clear now; nobody disputes it anymore,” he said, in an asked-and-answered tone, when I brought up the Bin Laden piece. (In fact, many reporters and former White House officials still dismiss his version of events as fantasy.)
But the piece also contains gushy praise from New Yorker editor (and former newspaper reporter) David Remnick. Perhaps the Times would suggest they were fair and balanced by publishing Hersh's dismissal of the Russia probe:
“Do you have any evidence that these 13 guys really were trolls and changed the election?” he asked, referring to the 13 Russians indicted by the Justice Department in February on charges they tried to subvert the election and support Mr. Trump.
“There have been social science studies of the impact of any particular thing on Facebook, and it’s, like, zippo!” Mr. Hersh went on. “We have a divided America, a really bitterly divided America. Do we really need the Russians to tell us we’re a troubled country?”
But Hersh is also old and cranky enough to suggest that -- despite the killing and maiming people thing -- the Unabomber was right that technology is taking over our lives.