So it turns out Times editor Dean Baquet refused to publish the Clinton campaign’s pushback email about the egregiously botched “criminal referral” story the paper published. I’m not going to get on the outrage bandwagon over that. This is high stakes Kabuki on both sides. The Clinton campaign may actually be happy they refused to publish – a better story than having their letter published in the paper.
But … there’s still something highly instructive we can draw from this. It is a really good object lesson on how much more wildly the Times gets played by Republicans than it ever does by Democrats. Fox and the RNC wouldn’t be playing them like a fiddle at this point.
News organizations botch stories. It happens. But the Times’‘ behavior in this case has frankly been baffling. There are a lot of ancillary questions being pressed by the Democrats and the Hillary campaign – some relevant, some not, the biggest being whether the ridiculous Gowdy committee somehow had its hands in the story. Those questions are getting enough play elsewhere. I will simply say this: it is untenable to get a story this wrong on such a consequential issue and remain steadfast that your reporters and editors did nothing wrong. I don’t mean felony wrong, like someone has to be fired or hung out to dry. But you simply can’t say you made no errors. If you relied on “trusted” sources and they got it wrong so it’s their fault, well … your trust was at least partly misplaced. Again, by friggin’ definition.
The Times has a checkered past reporting on the Clintons, to put it generously. If this had been about a Republican campaign, there would already been some sort of internal probe or review – at a minimum.
Is the Times a generally liberal paper? Of course it is. But that doesn’t have a direct or obvious effect in a situation like this. It can actually lead to sloppy and unethical reporting, as it did in the Whitewater Era.
The Times has a problem covering the Clintons. There’s no getting around that conclusion. It’s a longstanding problem. It’s institutional. I am really baffled as to why they can’t simply come clean on this one.