Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The New York Times Did Not Try To Elect Hillary Clinton

There was a lot of news earlier today: feel-good exercise in fantasy wins an Academy Award for best movie; a President who reads his teleprompter as well as I read, well, Creole attacks a film director for how he reads his notes; Donald Trump preparing for his trip to see how much he can give away to his boyfriend in North Korea; Mike Pence trying to build a case for war withVenezuela.

And still I read (a month late)  an article by the Atlantic's Caitlan Flanagan about the confrontation between Nick Sandmann and Native Indian Nathan Phillips last  month at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C Flanagan ends, a little out of context, lecturing The New York Times because

You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will casually harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.

Certainly a large swath of voters dislikes and resents the media. Voters also dislike and resent Hollywood, yet continue to flock to theaters and watch award shows.   However, that does not mean the press in general, and The New York Times in particular, is not generally fair and impartial. 

Aware it is not widely perceived as objective, The Times was slightly partial in the 2016 election cycle. Sensitive to the charge of liberal bias and expected within a few months to be reporting on "President Hillary Clinton," the media was prone to bend over backwards on behalf of candidate Trump.

This was critically at play in the appearance beneath the fold of the front page of that same New York Times on on October 31, 2016 of the headline "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link To Russia."

The article itself was more nuanced.  However, most Americans read only headlines, and appointment of the Special Counsel and revelations  over the past 21-24 months suggest that- though the headline may have been technically correct- it was extremely misleading. When in debate Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being a puppet of Vladimir Putin and the latter responded "no puppet, you're the puppet," the media largely ignored the issue of Donald Trump's entanglement with the Kremlin and Russian businessmen.

Gallup found that from July through September, the words Americans most heard around Donald Trump were the following, in order: speech, make, president, and immigration.  For Hillary Clinton, the most prominent was "emails," followed by "lie." While Donald Trump was telling whopper after whopper, "lie" didn't even make the cut for him.

Given that Flanagan wisely qualified her comment with "partly responsible," it would be unfair to the impact upon the election of  misogyny, ethnic bigotry, and discontent outside of coastal America after eight years of a failed Democratic administration. Sure, The New York Times played a role in Trump's victory. But it was less hatred toward it than the inadvertent bias it practiced in favor of the Republican candidate. 

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