July 28, 2015

For some twisted reason, the New York Times defines itself as Most Serious when they take shots at prominent Democrats, or when they're promoting war. This is dangerous for us, since there are still millions of people who take what the Times says seriously -- who saw a headline on the teevee news about their "blockbuster" that Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal investigation and will never, ever see their timid followup that says, sure, we made a mistake, but Hillary Clinton was "asking for it" with her "secret email."

Eric Boehlert at Media Matters:

The unsettling question the Times now faces as it grapples with the fallout from the email debacle is whether or not the newspaper can be trusted to be an honest player when covering Clinton. It's an extraordinary position for the Newspaper of Record to be in. But the Times has been feeding this credibility crisis for a very long time.

The Cliff's Notes to this conflict: With the bogus pursuits of Whitewater, the Loral spy satellites story, would-be spy Wen Ho Lee, and many more, the Times uncorked supposedly blockbuster allegations against Bill Clinton during the 1990s that were based on vague reporting that later turned out to be flimsy. The stories imploded, but not before Republicans grabbed onto the "liberal" New York Times gotchas and launched investigation after investigation. Fast-forward two decades and the same newsroom dysfunction persists.

Let's be clear: The Times is hardly alone in terms of having trouble reporting factually on the Clinton email story. Beltway journalists have strained for months trying to turn what is largely a process story into a simmering scandal. (See here.)

But the Times remains the country's most influential news outlet and the daily has been carrying around an unmistakable Clinton grudge for nearly twenty years. And it's a collective disdain for the Clintons that stretches from the opinion pages to the newsroom that arguably leads to spectacular blunders like the one we saw last week.

There seems to be a world view within the Times that taking cheap shots at the Clintons is not only allowed, it's preferred; it's a way for Times journalists to raise their profiles and generate buzz. But not only is the practice unfair and unethical, it carries with it profound political implications.Apparently making no effort to check with the lead Democrat on the panel about the anonymous claims of a criminal referral -- Rep. Elijah Cummings would have demolished the entire premise of the gotcha story -- theTimes essentially acted as stenographer for sources who either manufactured the claim about a criminal referral or unknowingly botched the facts.

The Times' oddly personal crusade against Hillary Clinton is also a crusade against the Democratic frontrunner for president, so the Republican Party benefits. The stakes really could not be higher, which makes the Times'behavior all the more disturbing.Back in May, Margaret Sullivan noted her objections to the paper's "oddly barbed tone" in some of its Clinton coverage. (That was putting it mildly.) At the time, readers were upset with a nasty, condescending news article by Jason Horowitz that referred to Clinton as a standoffish "regal" "freak." Additionally, in his tweet promoting the article, the Times reporter mocked the Democrat as "Queen Hillary."

But when Sullivan asked Times political editor Carolyn Ryan about the complaints, Ryan absolved the Times of blame by arguing Times readers had simply "misread" the Horowitz piece. And that has been the Times pattern for years -- impenetrable denial that the paper had jumped the rails while covering Bill and Hillary Clinton. The result of that institutional denial? Last week's fiasco.

More from former Timesman Kurt Eichenwald and his bone-rattling denunciation of the paper's recent blunder:

Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicableTimes story was neither.

Election Day is 400-plus days away. Can the New York Times' Clinton coverage be salvaged, or is the paper no longer an honest player?

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