New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan agreed with concerns that the paper subjects Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to tougher scrutiny than other 2016 contenders, promising to evaluate the Times' future coverage of Clinton for its fairness.
Sullivan already strongly criticized the paper on July 27 for its now twice-corrected report that relied on anonymous sourcing to claim that two inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton's email use. In reality, the probe was not criminal and was not focused on Clinton personally. The faulty report, for which Sullivan condemned the Times' for running a "sensational" story with "major journalistic problems" before it was ready and for not being transparent with readers about revisions, is still facing heavy criticism from veteran journalists.
On August 1, Sullivan highlighted critiques from readers and media observers who expressed concern that the error-riddled Clinton email story reveals the Times' pattern of taking "an unfairly critical edge" against Clinton, and Sullivan agreed (emphasis added):
Arlene Williams, a longtime subscriber, wrote and objected to "what I see as jaded coverage concerning Hillary Clinton." News articles and opinion columns are "just consistently negative," she said. And Ben Lieberman of Acton, Mass., said The Times seemed to be "on a mission to cut her down to size."
These readers aren't alone. The press critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen wrote on Twitter: "I have resisted this conclusion over the years, but after today's events it's fair to say the Times has a problem covering Hillary Clinton." Rachel Maddow said last week on MSNBC that the attitude of the national press corps, including The Times, is, "Everything Hillary Clinton does is a scandal." And James Fallows of The Atlantic called what he sees as a Times "Clinton vendetta" a "serious lapse," linking to a letter the Clinton campaign wrote in response to the Times story.
Mr. Purdy and the executive editor, Dean Baquet, insist that this scrutiny is necessary and that it is being done fairly. Because Mrs. Clinton stirs such strong emotions, they say, there are bound to be unending complaints from both her supporters and detractors.
But I agree with this sentiment from a reader, Evan Hannay, who is troubled by some of the Clinton coverage: "Hillary deserves tough questions when they are warranted. But it is undeniable that she is already facing significantly tougher coverage than any other potential candidate." He thinks The Times should make "a promise to readers going forward that Hillary is not going to be treated unfairly as she so often is by the media."
Last Thursday, I handed Mr. Baquet a printed copy of Mr. Hannay's email and asked him to address it.
To that end, he told me that he has urged reporters and editors to focus anew on issues stories. And he pledged fairness. "I'm happy to make a promise that she'll be treated fairly," he said, though he added, "If you look at our body of work, I don't believe we have been unfair." One testament to that, he said, was an investigative piece written by David Kirkpatrick shortly after the 2012 Benghazi attacks, with conclusions seen as favorable for Mrs. Clinton, who was then secretary of state. It came under heavy attack from the right.
But the Times's "screw-up," as Mr. Baquet called it, reinforces the need for reporters and their editors to be "doubly vigilant and doubly cautious."
Times readers (and on their behalf, I, too) will be watching and evaluating that over the next months. No one should expect a free ride for Mrs. Clinton. But she certainly deserves a fair shake.
The New York Times' latest botched story on emails from former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shows why reporters shouldn't trust leaks from anonymous partisan sources, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote in an August 1 op-ed in The Huffington Post.
Cummings, the ranking minority member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, detailed how the Republican-led investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks "has been plagued by a series of inaccurate, partisan leaks designed to attack" Clinton. The Times' recent rush to rely on anonymous "Capitol Hill" sourcing falsely claiming Clinton was the target of a potential criminal investigation -- which resulted in the paper having to issue multiple corrections and answer questions about its credibility -- is only the most recent example of reporters failing to verify information from anonymous sources when it comes to Clinton:
Congressional investigations into the attacks in Benghazi have been plagued by a series of inaccurate, partisan leaks designed to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Many of these attacks rely on anonymous sources to describe -- and often mischaracterize -- documents reporters have not seen.
Last week, the New York Times fell victim to this ploy, reporting that "[t]wo inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information."
I believe the Times' errors, like many before them, could have been avoided. I learned the truth on Thursday -- before the Times' story ran.
The Times' Executive Editor has suggested that its reporters could not have done anything differently because they relied on anonymous senior government officials, which the paper's Public Editor later explained included tips from "Capitol Hill."
I disagree. The Times could have insisted on seeing the documents they were describing. Or, if the Times spoke with Republicans in Congress, even off the record, they could have checked their facts with me or other Committee Democrats.
Unfortunately, this rush to print anonymous, unverified claims against Secretary Clinton is not unique.
Just last month, Politico was forced to correct a front-page story that relied on an anonymous source who apparently provided doctored information about an email that was produced to the Select Committee, rather than seeing the documents or contacting my office. Chairman Gowdy refused to investigate or condemn this leak.
Similarly, in May 2013, an anonymous source provided a description of an email from NSC staffer Ben Rhodes that misrepresented statements he made about the Benghazi talking points. CNN ultimately reviewed the email and reported that the information had been "seemingly invented" by the source.
Reporters have an obligation to ask why these sources demand to remain anonymous while refusing to provide copies of the documents they are peddling. No scoop should be too good to verify.
But the core problem is that these anonymous sources have an agenda, which is to manufacture facts to attack Secretary Clinton.
Former MSNBC employee Pat Buchanan used an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press to frame immigration as a "massive invasion" and "conquest of the West" by "third-world ... border jumpers." During the appearance, host Chuck Todd did not mention Buchanan's past history of racist comments, or that NBC's cable channel MSNBC parted ways with Buchanan in 2012.
After Meet the Press announced that Buchanan would be a guest on Sunday's show, Todd told Media Matters that Buchanan was invited on to compare Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign to his own 1990s-era presidential runs.
On the July 26 edition of the show, Todd introduced Buchanan only as a former Republican presidential candidate. On-air text also mentioned Buchanan's former work as communications director at the White House during the Reagan administration.
After Todd asked whether Trump is conducting a campaign similar to Buchanan's past runs for the presidency, Buchanan said that there was a "similarity" in how Trump discusses immigration, and went on to describe "what people feel" is a "massive invasion" of "refugees, and border jumpers" (emphasis added):
TODD: Pat, when you see Trump, and what he's doing to the field, regardless of your views personally about him, and I know the two of you have had your own encounters in the past -- similar to what you rode in '92?
BUCHANAN: There is great similarity in the sense -- Trump's strength is the precise opposite of the distance of the Republican base from the Republican leadership in the country. He's exposing that and he's hitting two of the really strong populist issues. One of them, there's overlap with Bernie Sanders, and that's the trade issue, the export of American jobs and factories, and what's happening to the American middle class.
But the other one Trump is hitting, which is one of the hottest issues in the whole West, as well as the United States, is the massive invasion, if you will, of what people feel is the conquest of the West by massive third-world immigrations, coming from refugees, and border jumpers, and all the rest of them. He's wired into both of these and they're enormously popular issues.
These comments echoed ones Buchanan has made before. In his 2006 book State of Emergency, for example, he wrote of immigration: "This is an invasion, the greatest invasion in history," and "We are witnessing how nations perish."
Buchanan's anti-immigration rhetoric contributed to his early 2012 departure from MSNBC. Buchanan was suspended and then dropped from the channel specifically because of his book Suicide of a Superpower, which claimed to document how diversity and immigration are ruining the country, and featured chapters titles such as "The End Of White America."
But Todd passed on the opportunity to explain to viewers Buchanan's past with the network and his lengthy history of bigoted comments about immigrants.
Amid widespread condemnation of Donald Trump from his fellow Republican presidential candidates following his attack on Sen. John McCain's military service, media are highlighting Republicans' collective failure to denounce Trump's past bigotry and xenophobia.
Fox News pundits repeatedly pushed -- and then walked back -- a false narrative propagated by an anti-Islam blogger that an "ISIS-linked" Twitter account warned of the Tennessee shooting prior to the attack.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson attacked transgender military members as "mentally ill" in response to the Pentagon's landmark announcement that the Department of Defense will create a working group to review "policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly."
On July 13, a press release from Secretary of Defense Carter Ash stated that the military's current ban on transgender service members is outdated and going forward, "must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve":
The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions. At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they're able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite. Moreover, we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines - real, patriotic Americans - who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.
Today, I am issuing two directives to deal with this matter. First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. Led by (Acting) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and composed of military and civilian personnel representing all the military services and the Joint Staff, this working group will report to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified. Second, I am directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.
After this announcement, Erickson responded on Twitter that transgender individuals, specifically those serving in the military, are "mentally ill":
It is very kind of the Obama administration to allow the mentally ill to serve openly in the military.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 14, 2015
In its report on this news, Time cited a report from the Williams Institute at UCLA that estimated 15,500 transgender individuals currently serve in the U.S. military.
Note: This post has been updated for clarity.
Right-wing media outlets are pushing Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy's deceptive claim that Hillary Clinton inaccurately told CNN in an interview that she had never been subpoenaed about the private email system she used as secretary of state. In fact, Clinton refuted a suggestion that she deleted personal emails unrelated to her work while she was under subpoena.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly lashed out at President Obama for the June 26 illumination of the White House in rainbow colors following the Supreme Court's historic ruling in favor of marriage equality.
On the June 29 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly asked of the display, "what about all the Americans who believe that a redefinition of marriage is not the job of the Supreme Court?" He later said that President Obama "did an in your face to traditional Americans" by putting a display there.
A tease earlier in the show asked whether the illumination was a "White House insult?"
CNN reporter Dana Bash missed the opportunity to press Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush on a 2001 Florida law he allowed to pass as governor that required single mothers to list their sexual histories in a newspaper before allowing children to be adopted.
In a prerecorded interview that aired on the June 14 edition of CNN's State of the Union, Dana Bash questioned Bush about his campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, including how he will distinguish himself from his family's political record, but failed to press Bush on his record as governor of Florida.
Just days earlier, however, Bash highlighted Bush's record as governor, noting that he is "facing questions about a 2001 so-called Scarlet Letter law in Florida when he was governor, requiring single mothers to put a notice in the newspaper before they could give up a child for adoption."
Bash also highlighted a statement from Bush's 1995 book Profiles in Character, in which he "argued for the 'restoration of shame' in society." From Bush's book:
One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.
According to Huffington Post's Laura Bassett, Bush's book "points to Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red 'A' for 'adulterer' on her clothes to punish her for having an extramarital affair that produced a child, as an early model for his worldview."
And, as Bassett explained, Florida's Scarlet Letter law was an "opportunity to test his theory on public shaming," when he "declined to veto a very controversial bill," -- that Marco Rubio and five members of Congress also voted for -- "that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption."
NPR reported that part of Bush's rationale for the law was to decrease uncertainty about adoptions by "provid[ing] greater finality once the adoption is approved, and to avoid circumstances where future challenges to the adoption disrupt the life of the child."
But a 2004 Notre Dame Law Review article explained that the personal information required by the law to be listed in newspapers was extensive:
"The notice ... must contain a physical description, including, but not limited to age, race, hair and eye color, and approximate height and weight of the minor's mother and of any person the mother reasonably believes may be the father; the minor's date of birth; and any date and city, including the county and state in which the city is located, in which conception may have occurred."
And according to NPR, the ad "had to run once a week for a month, at the expense of either the mother or the people who wanted to adopt the baby, as that 2004 article explains."
While Bush objected to parts of the law, in part because, "there is a shortage of responsibility on behalf of the birth father," the 2001 law wasn't replaced until after a Florida court "declared the provision requiring women to list their sexual encounters unconstitutional because it was deemed an invasion of privacy."
Fox News host Megyn Kelly lashed out at "the left wing press" for highlighting comments she made about a viral video showing police officer Eric Casebolt manhandling a teenage girl at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. But Media Matters correctly described Kelly's June 8 comments where she claimed that the teenage girl attacked in the video shared some of the fault for the actions of the officer, arguing that the girl was "no saint either" because she didn't follow the officer's instructions. Kelly's remarks sparked widespread outrage in liberal and conservative media.
On the June 10 edition of her show Kelly said that "some of the left-wing press continue to use this incident to dishonestly push their own agenda." She claimed that Salon.com "repeat[ed] a Media Matters lie" that Kelly leapt to Casebolt's defense "by saying that this teen was, quote, 'no saint either.'"
But Media Matters included the full context of Kelly's comments in a June 8 post detailing Fox News personalities' reaction to the controversial video:
Fox News host Megyn Kelly responded to the brutal video showing a teen girl being manhandled by a Texas police officer by commenting that "the girl was no saint either. He had told her to leave, and she continued to linger. And when the cop tells you to leave, get out." She followed this by saying "I'm not defending his actions, let me make that clear."
Conservative media outlets also criticized Kelly's coverage. The Washington Examiner reported that "Megyn Kelly defends Texas cop's aggressive response to McKinney teenagers," noting that "Kelly claimed that while she was not defending Casebolt, [the girl] was not completely blameless either." Reason.com also criticized Kelly in a post, writing:
Some conservatives, unfortunately, are falling over themselves to defend the police--the one kind of public employee who can do no wrong in the eyes of all-too many people on the right. Media Matters compiled a disheartening list of Fox News personalities raising baseless hypotheticals that could (maybe) justify Casebolt's rash actions.