Just out of college, I got a job at The New York Times. The electricity of the place was undeniable and I was proud to enter the building’s double doors and pass beneath the paper’s glorious masthead. I never imagined that 30 years later, I’d be singling out the “paper of record” for what appears to be a vendetta against Hillary Clinton. Beyond reporting the news, the Times is driving a narrative. Having crossed the Rubicon from journalistic integrity to innuendo and speculation, The New York Times has taken on the role of Hillary Clinton’s de facto opponent for the Presidency.
Secretary Clinton has rarely gotten a break from the mainstream press. They’re only nice to her when she’s not running for anything. While nice isn’t required and no one of either Party should ever get a pass, the media’s job is investigative journalism. When misleading headlines, unflattering photographs and cartoons that attach negative affect to a candidate accompany reporting that is blurry or downright misleading, casting a pall over what might otherwise be benign, that problem is no longer just the candidate’s. It’s ours.
When Hillary went bold on immigration and criminal justice reform, The New York Times’ Patrick Healy countered his own reporting on her positive actions with the headline: “Hillary Shows a New Willingness to Run a Divisive Campaign.” An embarrassing pictorial tweet by blogger and former Clinton advisor Peter Daou forced a correction: “Hillary Clinton Shows a New Willingness to Tackle Risky Issues.” As Daou notes, Healy’s article found every excuse to frame her negatively (“cold, cautious, scandals-be-damned attitude”) – with no cause.
Likewise NYT’s Jason Horowitz used this line:
“She seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, magically animated from a wax museum to claim what is rightfully hers.”
He later removed the “wax museum” reference (ageist as it was) when bloggers called him out.
An earlier New York Times article boasted the headline, “Clinton’s lawyer urges no interview in House Benghazi inquiry.” The actual letter Clinton’s counsel, David Kendall, sent to Chairman Trey Gowdy reiterated her willingness to re-testify before the Committee:
“There is no reason to delay her appearance or to have her testify in a private interview.” …“While Secretary Clinton has testified before committees in both the House and the Senate about the tragic events in Benghazi, she has made clear that she will voluntarily testify publicly again before the Select Committee and, at that time, is happy to continue to answer any questions the Select Committee may have about her email use.”
Quite different. Even The Hill, not allergic to slamming Hillary, noted that she is happy to testify “in public and without delay.” In other words, Hillary called Chairman Gowdy’s bluff.
Did The New York Times obscure the truth because a headline is as far as some people read? My bet is that they will not amend this anymore than Rep. Gowdy wants a public hearing. With no private hearing, he can’t bleed out innuendo and truncated quotes, or echo what The New York Times is doing: create more smoke to string out this click-bait circus until Election Day 2016.
Gowdy’s political motives for these hearings are obvious. FOX’s Greta Van Susteren noted that he risks a loss of credibility the more he delays filing his final report, which Gowdy has stated he won’t deliver it until well into 2016.
The New York Times, to its later embarrassment, solicited the reporting of Republican operative Peter Schweizer, whose “tell all” book of alleged influence peddling as regards the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Secretary of State offers “no smoking gun,” as the author himself confessed. Schweizer initially claimed he was crafting an expose on Republican Jeb Bush. As of this writing, his publishers indicate there is no such plan.
The New York Times, in conjunction with Mr. Schweizer, released a speculative hit piece, Cash Flow to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Uranium Deal; a story debunked by Forbes back in 2009. Even DailyKOS (a site that verbally gutted Hillary and her supporters in 2008) noted that it took 10 circuitous paragraphs until the NYT conceded:
“Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown.”
Echoing that, Frank Giustra, the alleged recipient of Clinton’s largesse and last year’s winner of the Dalai Lama Humanitarian Award (you can’t make this stuff up), released a statement refuting NYT’s assertions, which can and should be fact checked. Per Salon’s award winning journalist Heather Digby Parton, “investigating the Clinton Foundation is entirely appropriate.”
But Parton also notes these sorts of “breathless” storylines and “lazy assumptions” that The New York Times obviously derived “straight from Republican operatives” hardly qualify as objective journalism; any more than The New York Times softball coverage of Republican candidates: i.e., Ted Cruz’s Debate Skills, Scott Walker’s “faith,” Jeb Bush’s Yoga Mats and Tesla Brochures, and last but not least Jeb’s diet. Where is their coverage of Jeb Bush destroying campaign finance laws by outsourcing his campaign to a SuperPAC, for example?
Even the CEO of the Conservative-leaning Newsmax penned an editorial in defense of the Clinton Foundation and lauded the organization’s good works. Nearly every other major news outlet, including FOX News’ Chris Wallace, devoted time to debunking Schweizer’s claims, challenging him to provide evidence of wrongdoing. Publishers Harper Collins have already made 7 or 8 corrections to the book’s factual inaccuracies. ABC, NBC and pundits from major cable outlets have called The New York Times out for its unconvincing reportage: NBC and MSNBC put it nicely to say, “the story doesn’t hold up very well.”
The final dagger to The New York Times’ reputation came from their own Nobel laureate economist, columnist Paul Krugman. Reminiscing about the endless scandalmongering against the Clintons in the 90’s “none of which actually turned out to involve wrongdoing,” Krugman cautioned his own newspaper:
“[T]he news media should probably be aware that this isn’t 1994: there’s a much more effective progressive infrastructure now, much more scrutiny of reporting, and the kinds of malpractice that went unsanctioned 20 years ago can land you in big trouble now.”
Social media can function as the great equalizer. Rapid responders and debunkers can take these kinds of scams apart in a matter of seconds.
The New York Times has already been faulted by their own Public Editor for their reporting on Hillary’s email “scandal,” having had to walk back significant parts of their story – albeit quietly. The trend of shoot first, ask questions later continues unabated.
As noted elsewhere, reporters are under great pressure to compete in a fast-food nation, generating quantity at lightning speed rather than quality. This campaign will continue on for 18 months. If truth is the goal, wouldn’t it be better to hold the report until they have all the facts? That The New York Times seems allergic to this practice in Secretary Clinton’s case makes their motives suspect. The constant drumbeat of negative allusions as to Hillary’s appearance, character and age scream agenda, too.
NYT Journalist Jodi Kantor has “wondered” whether being a grandmother would hurt Hillary’s chances at the Presidency, implying that “Madam President” would be bouncing baby Charlotte on her knee, testing baby formula while holding the phone under her chin in a feeble attempt to converse with Vladimir Putin. A sexist concern from a woman reporter is sad indeed.
Other recent attacks include a NYT cartoon of Hillary crushed under a giant phone a la the Wicked Witch of the East and their Sunday magazine’s cover art to the feature, “Planet Hillary,” depicting the former Secretary of State as a wide head of wrinkled, beige cheese. Yet the pièce de resistance is always the obsessive, negative commentary of one of their most powerful columnists, Maureen Dowd.
Following Clinton’s successful, low-key campaign launch, Ms. Dowd claimed that Hillary was doing it all wrong – again. In her column Granny, Get Your Gun, Dowd opines:
“THE most famous woman on the planet has a confounding problem. She can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman.”
No. She cannot figure out how to campaign as the type of woman that would suit Ms. Dowd, whose prescription for Hillary Clinton is at once crazy-making and familiar to many women – don’t be too soft – “a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van” and don’t project “swagger” or be the “Iron Lady.” How many women have thought to themselves: will my porridge ever be just right?
Having referred to Hillary over the years as a “shoulder-pad feminist,” “Sybil,” and implying she had ice for blood, isn’t Dowd’s misogyny just as bad as that of the Republicans she decries? This type of labeling goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years: women are untrustworthy, unfathomable and if they are “ambitious,” they are evil. Heaven forefend they have more than one mood or change a hairdo – then they are “inauthentic” as well.
Dowd approached laughing stock status with a column claiming that Robin Williams’ tragic death reminded her of Hillary. Her most recent diatribe insists that Hollywood is allergic to Hillary, reluctantly settling for her as their only choice. As if in response, Vox’s Matthew Iglesias published: It’s time for the media to admit that Hillary Clinton is popular …with the American people, if not with the chattering class. Yet Ms. Dowd grotesquerie must serve a purpose, otherwise The New York Times would not continue to employ her.
The New York Times is but one of a number of media outlets that miss no opportunity to taint Hillary, “creating artificial perches for her in order to knock her off” (TIME, Politico, MSNBC, NBC, Washington Post, USA Today and The Hill come immediately to mind), but surely the “paper of record” has long led the feeding frenzy, obscuring her record in favor of the worst kind of identity politics.
While my leanings are obvious, this goes beyond support, like or dislike. When editors green light a predetermined view of any candidate, sculpting or omitting facts to fit their narrative, allowing debasing trash talk about a First Lady, two-term Senator and Secretary of State voted America’s most admired woman for 19 years, then the once great “Grey Lady” has fallen far indeed. The work of conscientious journalists should not be lessened by those who would test the credibility of what purports to be a sacred institution.
For years, I looked back with affection at my six month administrative gig at the “paper of record” but now rejoice at turning down the permanent job that was offered me there. To be clear, I appreciate those showing up at that building who still make every effort to do the place proud. A shame the publishers seem to have something else in mind.
*Photo of Hillary Clinton courtesy Jim Livesey*
Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin — exposing media bias in a society not as evolved as advertised. #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.
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