January 23, 2017

From March, 2016: NY Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet describes the editorial board meeting with Trump to CBS This Morning.

Dean Baquet is TERRIBLE at his job and should step down for the good of democracy.

How's that for not burying the lede? I've been watching this little drama play out on Twitter with The New York Times (and come on, guys, that's embarrassing for the purported paper of record for the country to be subtweeting snarky comments to one another) and that is the only conclusion I can come to.

The background
Executive Editor Dean Baquet has spent the last few months skirting around the ties between Donald Trump and Russia although they've had the same intel other mainstream outlets have had for months. The problem? Right before the election (October 31, to be exact) they published an article claiming that "Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” which we all know now is patently untrue. But strangely, the Times is staying mum on that strange bit of reassurance right before the election and their subsequent silence on the more troubling (dare I say treasonous?) aspects of the story.

This is not the first time that the Times has sat on a story for fear of impacting an election. They did the same thing in 2004 about Bush's warrantless wiretapping of Americans. Not a great moment for democracy, but the Times didn't appear to learn that lesson.

Contrast that, if you will, with the sheer number of column inches expended breathlessly repeating every insinuation made about Hillary Clinton, factually-based or not. And that includes the reprehensible promotion of stories derived from "Clinton Cash" a fact-free hatchet job created by Breitbart contributor and well-known fabricator Peter Schweizer. Baquet defended these stories on Clinton because her candidacy (and widely assumed surety of winning the election) merited scrutiny. Trump, on the other hand, was non-serious (as evidenced by the video above) and was allowed to glide past the media unchecked.

But every would be, possible, theoretical, potential scandal of Hillary Clinton was splashed on the front page with a buried admission somewhere along the 12th paragraph that there might be no there there. Even former Public Editor Margaret Sullivan admitted that there is a significant documented history that The NY Times has a problem in how they cover Hillary Clinton.

The Current Situation:
So current Public Editor Liz Spayd acknowledged in an article that the Times (and Baquet, specifically) may have been a little "timid" in their reporting of a major news story that could very well have been the harbinger of the destruction of democracy by foreign agents. "Timid" isn't the adjective I'd choose, but Spayd has to see these guys in the lunch room, so I assume she's pulling punches for the sake of office comity.

Conversations over what to publish were prolonged and lively, involving Washington and New York, and often including the executive editor, Dean Baquet. If the allegations were true, it was a huge story. If false, they could damage The Times’s reputation. With doubts about the material and with the F.B.I. discouraging publication, editors decided to hold their fire.

But was that the right decision? Was there a way to write about some of these allegations using sound journalistic principles but still surfacing the investigation and important leads? Eventually, The Times did just that, but only after other news outlets had gone first.

Dean Baquet, taking cues from the thin-skinned tweeter in the Oval Office, was not going to let some uppity woman tell him his business. So what does a timid, story-sitting editor with a institutional bias against Hillary Clinton do? He goes to The Washington Post to complain to them. No, seriously.

“We had three or four reporters banging around on that story for months,” he says. “I looked at documents pertaining to that story myself. I ran every meeting on that story. If true, it would have been explosive, but there was no evidence to support anything untoward there.” He continues, “We did all our reporting and we just made judgments as journalists.” When a news organization concludes that it cannot prove something, it doesn’t get to say, “I want to show you my notebook anyway,” says Baquet.

Funny, that's EXACTLY what Baquet did with the Clinton Cash/Foundation/Benghazi/email stories. But hey, women have it coming, amirite? It's not like a murderous oligarch is trying to influence elections in this country for his own power and gratification. Oh wait...

I don't think we get to pretend anymore that there is a functioning media in this country. The nation's 'paper of record' is showing that they are fearful (not timid, damn it, but out-and-out cowardly) of publishing stories about our newly sworn-in president who entered office with a plethora of conflicts of interest and scandals, none of which the Times took all that seriously in their reporting prior to the election. But they will rationalize their inadequate reporting away as 'doing their job correctly' while democracy is being stolen from us by Putin.

This nation will not survive without a thriving fourth estate. Trump is already showing signs that he wants to control the media. He's gaming them by setting his mindless minions on them by yelling "lying media!" And Dean Baquet shows far too much willingness to go along with it.

He's hurting democracy. It's time for The NY Times to ask for Dean Baquet's resignation.

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