NYT Is Said To Have Learned Nothing From Its Trump I Coverage

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PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - APRIL 06: Republican presidential candidate, former US President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump arrive at the home of billionaire investor John Paulson on April 6, 2024 in Palm... PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - APRIL 06: Republican presidential candidate, former US President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump arrive at the home of billionaire investor John Paulson on April 6, 2024 in Palm Beach, Florida. Donald Trump's campaign is expecting to raise more than 40 million dollars when major donors gather a fundraiser billed as the "Inaugural Leadership Dinner". (Photo by Alon Skuy/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

In Private, NYT Is Outraged By NYT

Yesterday’s NYT apologia for Melania Trump was laugh-out-loud funny, by which I mean so, so bad. Reminiscent of its much-mocked coverage of Javanka during Trump I, the piece had all the usual hallmarks of NYT toadyism.

Let’s start with the passive-voice headline: “Melania Trump Avoids the Courtroom, but Is Said to Share Her Husband’s Anger”

“Said to” is one of the great journalistic sophistries. It does so much apparent work with so little actual effort.

What is this awkward headline construction meant to convey? That despite all her heartache over the Stormy Daniels affair, Melania, too, is outraged (OUTRAGED!) over Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s wrongful criminal prosecution of her husband.

How does the NYT know this? So glad you asked!

Melania hasn’t said anything publicly about her supposed outrage. She hasn’t attended legal proceedings with Trump. She hasn’t been by his side at the trial.

But wait! She’s has purportedly spoken “in private” about her feelings.

It’s the classic dipsy-do of the Javanka coverage: Why take any risk of speaking publicly when you can launder it through the NYT. We are never so courageous as we are in our private musings.

But how is the NYT privy to Melania’s private thoughts and comments?

The sourcing: “according to several people familiar with her thinking.” Yes! Bravo! It’s self serving on top of self serving, with two degrees of separation to play it safe.

Why are these “people familiar” granted anonymity? Because they can’t speak publicly “out of fear of jeopardizing a personal relationship with the Trumps.” Perfect! These brave truth-tellers are risking so much – by which I mean, so little – to get their essential truths out into the public sphere.

Here’s the nugget of “reporting” around which the entire article is built:

But Mrs. Trump, the former first lady, shares his view that the trial itself is unfair, according to several people familiar with her thinking.

In private, she has called the proceedings “a disgrace” tantamount to election interference, according to a person with direct knowledge of her comments who could not speak publicly out of fear of jeopardizing a personal relationship with the Trumps.

The rest of the piece is a filament of speculation, pop psychology, knowing winks about cliched relationship tropes, and lazy stereotypes about wives and mothers – all in service of trying to wring a drop of compassion from readers for the private turmoil that comes with being married to DJT.

News coverage of first ladies, former first ladies, and first ladies to-be-again is still caught in a time warp of 1950s domesticity and style section preciousness. The NYT isn’t alone in falling into this coverage trap. But it has taken the form to new lows – and appallingly used it as a coverage template for the most nepotic administration in American history. Yesterday’s Melania piece suggests that despite everything, the NYT is going to haul this worn-out coverage into Trump II.

Well done all around, by which I mean wtf.

We’re Well On Our Way To Seating A Trump Jury

What initially seemed like a jury selection process in the hush-money trial that could drag on for as long as weeks shifted quickly into productive mode yesterday afternoon. By the end of the day, seven of the 18 jurors (12 jurors + 6 alternates) had been selected, and the judge was telling them to plan on being back Monday for opening statements.

The trial stands in recess today. That gives the judge Thursday and Friday to complete jury selection. Monday opening statements could still get pushed back if things go slower than expected the rest of this week, but only by a day or so. In short, the trial remains on track despite some early misgivings.

Be sure to read Josh Kovensky’s dispatch from the courthouse yesterday.

Contempt Hearing Set For Next Wednesday

The trial judge issued his show cause order, setting a hearing for next Wednesday on whether Trump violated the terms of the gag order against him and should be sanctioned for it, as prosecutors are arguing.

The order itself contains a big, bold-faced warning to Trump at the top:


The judge isn’t messing around.

Mixed Signals From SCOTUS On Major Jan. 6 Case

The Supreme Court took up Tuesday the issue of whether the government properly used a 2002 statute to prosecute hundreds of Jan. 6 rioters and to charge Donald Trump himself. Reaction to the oral argument was decidedly mixed.

One respected observer who I follow closely said, “5 justices seem implacably opposed to DOJ view” while another equally respected reporter said, “The conservatives … didn’t sound reflexively hostile to the government’s position.”

Which is it? TPM’s Kate Riga tries to iron it all out.

About That Trump Bond …

Ahead of a court hearing next week, the insurance company that provided Donald Trump with an appeal bond in the multi-hundred million dollar civil fraud case in New York has submitted a new filing explaining and justifying the terms of its undertaking.

One America News Settles Smartmatic Defamation Case

Voting tech company Smartmatic has settled its big defamation claim against right-wing One America News over its 2020 Big Lie coverage. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Smartmatic still has defamation claims outstanding against Fox News and other Trump world figures.

Yikes! Blame The Wife?

In a newly unsealed court filing, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) previewed one possible defense in his upcoming corruption trial: His co-defendant wife withheld information from him or otherwise led him to believe nothing unlawful was afoot.

Not So Funny Now

Watching hard-right members of Congress swat around the last three GOP speakers of the House and now do the same thing to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) yields some pleasurable schadenfreude and offers a smidge of justice. But it is painful to see desperately needed U.S. aid to Ukraine caught up in the clownish internal turmoil of the House GOP.

Johnson’s tentative plan to try to get Ukraine aid through the House as early as this week quickly ran into rough waters yesterday, with another far-right member of his caucus joining with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in threatening to depose him as speaker if he pushes Ukraine aid through.

Johnson vowed to stay on as speaker, but when you’re having to publicly say you won’t resign …

For Your Radar …

Arizona legislators may take another stab as soon as today at repealing the state’s Civil War-era abortion ban. Repealing the ban will require Democrats getting help from enough Republican legislators, some of whom foiled a similar repeal attempt last week.

What A Public Service

If you take Donald Trump’s bizarro remarks over the weekend about the battle of Gettysburg and set them to a Ken Burns-style score with a mashup of vintage slapstick film clips, you arrive at this masterpiece:

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