As reported by Politico, The New York Times has responded to Donald Trump's recent mockery of one of its reporters who helped debunk the presidential candidate's false claim that he saw "thousands and thousands" of Arab-Americans cheering as the World Trade Center collapsed under the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Defending his claim at a campaign rally, Trump chose to mock the disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who covered the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and has recently added to the definitive debunking of the presidential candidate's smear. As reported by Politico, "'We think it's outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters,' said a spokeswoman for the Times."
Trump can be seen mocking Kovaleski in this clip from Morning Joe:
During a defense of his widely debunked claim that thousands of people in parts of New Jersey with large Arab populations celebrated the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Trump performed a derisive impression of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski -- who suffers from a chronic condition that has limited the movement of his arms -- at a rally in South Carolina on Tuesday night.
Citing a 2001 article written by Kovaleski that referred to people allegedly seen celebrating the attacks, Trump said it was "Written by a nice reporter."
Trump went on, "Now the poor guy -- you ought to see the guy: 'Uhh I don't know what I said. I don't remember.' He's going, 'I don't remember. Maybe that's what I said.'" As he spoke, Trump launched into an impression which involved gyrating his arms wildly and imitating the unusual angle at which Kovaleski's hand sometimes rests.
"We think it's outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters," said a spokeswoman for the Times. The article cited by Trump was written by Kovaleski when he worked for The Washington Post and stated that in the aftermath of Sept. 11, "Law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river."
On Tuesday, after Trump's supporters began citing the article as evidence for the candidate's claim, Kovaleski told CNN, "We did a lot of shoe leather reporting in and around Jersey City and talked to a lot of residents and officials for the broader story. Much of that has, indeed, faded from memory ... I do not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating. That was not the case, as best as I can remember."
Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that limits the movement of the joints and weakens the muscles around them. As a reporter at the New York Daily News in the late 1980s and early '90s, he covered Trump's business exploits and met with the developer on several occasions.
On November 24, the editorial board of The New York Times called on the media to hold Trump accountable for his "racist lies," adding "[h]istory teaches that failing to hold a demagogue to account is a dangerous act. It's no easy task for journalists to interrupt Mr. Trump with the facts, but it's an important one."
Trump's actions are reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh's mockery of Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's in 2006. Limbaugh at the time accused the actor of "exaggerating the effects" of the disease in an ad, and later suggested that Fox had intentionally over-medicated himself "so you would really, really hate Republicans." Fox News host Sean Hannity defended Limbaugh, saying Fox "[has] a right to speak up, but he also has a right to be criticized. He is a guy that is very political."
Critical voices in the media are increasingly encouraging news outlets to not give a "free pass" to the fact that presidential candidate Donald Trump "is without question making himself into the racist's candidate for president."
Fox News baselessly claimed that the Obama administration ordered military officials to manipulate intelligence about ISIS after it was reported that the Pentagon was expanding an investigation into allegations that intelligence was altered to make the terror group look weaker than it was. However, the accusations of manipulation have pointed only to senior United States Central Command officials, not the White House.
The New York Times' Paul Krugman called out right-wing media's baseless anxiety about Syrian refugees and "exaggerated" panic over the threat of a terrorist attack as the latest example of the "apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years."
In a November 20 column, Krugman observed that Fox News contributor Erick Erickson's "bizarre" threat not to "see the new 'Star Wars' movie on opening day, because 'there are no metal detectors at American theaters'" is "part of a larger pattern" of right-wing panic.
Right-wing media reacted to the November 13 ISIS-led attacks on Paris and elsewhere with sweeping and unfounded claims that President Obama's anti-terror response is endangering U.S national security, with some on Fox even claiming that he has "Islamic sympathies." Others vilified Syrian refugees and defended calls for religious litmus tests, only accepting Christian refugees, on the basis that "Muslims might blow us up."
Krugman noted that among conservatives "[t]hese days, panic attacks after something bad happens are the rule rather than the exception." He attributed this epidemic to the "apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years": "Think about it. From the day Mr. Obama took office, his political foes have warned about imminent catastrophe. Fiscal crisis! Hyperinflation! Economic collapse, brought on by the scourge of health insurance!" Krugman recalled right-wing media's "great Ebola scare of 2014," which featured assertions that President Obama would expose American troops to Ebola to "atone for colonialism." While the "threat of pandemic, like the threat of a terrorist attack, was real," he wrote, "it was greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to hype from the same people now hyping the terrorist danger." All of this overblown fearmongering is, Krugman concludes, "what the right is all about:
Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of the website RedState.com, is a serious power in right-wing circles. Speechifying at RedState's annual gathering is a rite of passage for aspiring Republican politicians, and Mr. Erickson made headlines this year when he disinvited Donald Trump from the festivities.
So it's worth paying attention to what Mr. Erickson says. And as you might guess, he doesn't think highly of President Obama's antiterrorism policies.
Still, his response to the attack in Paris was a bit startling. The French themselves are making a point of staying calm, indeed of going out to cafesto show that they refuse to be intimidated. But Mr. Erickson declared on his website that he won't be going to see the new "Star Wars" movie on opening day, because "there are no metal detectors at American theaters."
It's a bizarre reaction -- but when you think about it, it's part of a larger pattern. These days, panic attacks after something bad happens are the rule rather than the exception, at least on one side of the political divide.
But we shouldn't really be surprised, because we've seen this movie before (unless we were too scared to go to the theater). Remember the great Ebola scare of 2014? The threat of a pandemic, like the threat of a terrorist attack, was real. But it was greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to hype from the same people now hyping the terrorist danger.
What's more, the supposed "solutions" were similar, too, in their combination of cruelty and stupidity. Does anyone remember Mr. Trump declaring that "the plague will start and spread" in America unless we immediately stopped all plane flights from infected countries? Or the fact that Mitt Romney took a similar position? As it turned out, public health officials knew what they were doing, and Ebola quickly came under control -- but it's unlikely that anyone on the right learned from the experience.
What explains the modern right's propensity for panic? Part of it, no doubt, is the familiar point that many bullies are also cowards. But I think it's also linked to the apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years.
Think about it. From the day Mr. Obama took office, his political foes have warned about imminent catastrophe. Fiscal crisis! Hyperinflation! Economic collapse, brought on by the scourge of health insurance! And nobody on the right dares point out the failure of the promised disasters to materialize, or suggest a more nuanced approach.
The context also explains why Beltway insiders were so foolish when they imagined that the Paris attacks would deflate Donald Trump's candidacy, that Republican voters would turn to establishment candidates who are serious about national security. Who, exactly, are these serious candidates? And why would the establishment, which has spent years encouraging the base to indulge its fears and reject nuance, now expect that base to understand the difference between tough talk and actual effectiveness?
At least 30 state governors -- 29 Republican, 1 Democratic -- are parroting right-wing media myths about security concerns presented by incoming Syrian refugees to argue against taking part in expanded refugee resettlement programs. However, the overwhelming majority of refugees pose no credible threat to the United States, and the vetting process for refugee applicants is thorough. Furthermore, state governments lack the legal authority to dictate immigration policy in the United States.
In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Republicans rushed with their conservative media allies to call for a halt to the admission of Syrian refugees into America, claiming that they would pose a significant threat to the United States. Major editorial boards slammed Republicans for "def[ying] what the nation stands for" and pushing divisive rhetoric that could "provide propaganda benefits to the Islamic State."
Right-wing media seized on the November 13 terror attacks in Paris to make at least five false or misleading claims about Syrian refugees, past statements from Hillary Clinton, President Obama's strategy against ISIS, the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and how guns in civilian hands could have supposedly changed the outcome of the attacks.
In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
In The New York Times, freelance journalist Meaghan Winter called attention to the dangerous implications of conservative attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, which have been bolstered by right-wing media citing the repeatedly debunked deceptively-edited videos smearing the reproductive health care provider. As Winter explained, the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood could hit low-income women the hardest.
Repeated Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have been championed and propelled by right-wing media citing the series of deceptively edited videos released by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP). CMP has been falsely smearing Planned Parenthood by baselessly claiming the health care provider profits from the illegal sale of fetal tissue. While this "campaign of deception" has been debunked repeatedly by media, experts, and several federal and state investigations, conservative media have continued to promote the falsehoods to attack Planned Parenthood. Right-wing media have also provided ammunition for lawmakers seeking to defund the women's health care provider by unrealistically claiming that community clinics could fill the gap if Planned Parenthood lost funding - an assertion that health experts have explained is impossible.
In a November 12 opinion piece for The New York Times, Winter highlighted the dire consequences of conservative attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. Noting that the most dangerous threats to the vital health care services provided by Planned Parenthood -- cancer screenings, ultrasounds, contraception and other services -- are occurring on the state level, Winter explained that "legislators in at least 11 states have proposed bills designed to restrict Planned Parenthood" just since July, when the videos smearing Planned Parenthood were first released. When Republicans fight to defund Planned Parenthood and these types of providers are shut down, Winter explained, "they leave low-income women with few alternatives for reproductive and preventive health care," and effectively force "thousands of women seeking low-cost health care [to end] up at crisis pregnancy centers." Winter noted that the effects of these crisis pregnancy centers, which are being funded by some of the very states trying to defund Planned Parenthood, often mean women are "coerced to continue" unwanted pregnancies "through misinformation or a lack of access," and consequently "lose control" of their bodies, education, finances, and futures:
The Republicans who voted in September to block Planned Parenthood's funding weren't protesting covering abortion with federal dollars -- that's been restricted since 1977. Instead, they want to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing cancer screenings, ultrasounds, contraception and other services.
The question is not whether the federal government will defund Planned Parenthood -- it won't -- but how many states will. Since July, legislators in at least 11 states have proposed bills designed to restrict Planned Parenthood from providing health care to low-income women.
When providers like Planned Parenthood are shut down, they leave low-income women with few alternatives for reproductive and preventive health care. While lawmakers say they'll transfer funds to community health centers, there are too few to meet the need.
Today, thousands of women seeking low-cost health care are ending up at crisis pregnancy centers. Nationwide, there are more than 3,000 anti-choice centers advertising free services, like options counseling, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. They now outnumber abortion clinics by at least three to one.
These organizations and their friendly volunteers may seem innocuous, but the centers are often staffed by evangelical women who lack professional licenses and belong to religious organizations that actively discourage them from recommending contraception, let alone abortion. Two such organizations, Heartbeat International and Care Net, coach staff members to seem credible to "abortion-minded" women by scrubbing their websites, signage and waiting rooms of all evidence of their underlying evangelical goals. Staff members themselves say their centers are most appealing to young women without anywhere else to turn.
When a woman is coerced to continue an unwanted pregnancy through misinformation or lack of access, she loses control of her body, education, finances -- her future. The struggle for reproductive rights is inextricable from other movements for racial and economic justice. We will not achieve equal opportunity until a poor woman has the same sovereignty over her body and her future as a wealthy man. We must roll back the anti-choice legislation in our states that holds back equality.
Media fact-checkers dismantled Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) claim during the fourth Republican presidential debate that "welders earn more money than philosophers" while conservative media championed the false assertion as part of Rubio's so-called mixture of "substance with soaring rhetoric."
The New York Times recently reported that China had released new data showing that the country has burned significantly more coal in recent years than previously thought. Conservative media are alleging that China is "lying" and using this news to undermine the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Paris, where nations hope to reach an international climate change agreement. But experts say China's revised data, which has been known to policymakers for months, is a result of improved accounting -- not deception -- and has already been incorporated into the international negotiations.
In a story discussing how the truth is "starting to look deeply out of fashion" during the 2016 presidential campaign, The New York Times bent over backwards to create the impression of a "bipartisan" trend by equating unambiguous falsehoods from several Republican candidates with incomplete retellings of stories about Hillary Clinton and false statements made by Democratic candidates decades ago.
The Times noted Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's false debate claim attacking Planned Parenthood has been "roundly disputed" by media fact-checkers yet the candidate has refused to admit she exaggerated when pressed about its veracity.
The article also described the current controversy around Ben Carson and the authenticity of several stories in his autobiography, including claims that he was offered a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy, and that he attempted to stab a childhood friend. The story goes on to relate several verifiably false claims Donald Trump has made on the campaign trail, conceding that he "utters plenty of refutable claims," and "has set the tone for the embroidery" by "generat[ing] an entirely new category of overstatement in American politics."
Yet the paper claimed that "the tendency to bend facts is bipartisan."
As evidence, the Times cited falsehoods told by presidential candidates Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, and Joe Biden more than two decades ago.
The stories the Times cited as evidence of current falsehoods from a Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, are specious examples and simply not on par with what they detailed about the Republicans.
First the paper reported that "Hillary Rodham Clinton has said that all of her grandparents were immigrants, even though her paternal grandmother was born in Pennsylvania."
But that story is more complex than its presentation by the Times. Clinton's grandfather, but not grandmother, was an immigrant. When this was pointed out, the campaign told Buzzfeed, "Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants" adding, "As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary's grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the U.S. in the early 1880s."
The Times also refers to Clinton's private email server:
Mrs. Clinton has rationalized her reliance on a private server for both her personal and State Department emails by saying she preferred using a single electronic device, even though she used multiple devices, like an iPad, to read and send email.
But Clinton using an iPad to access her email does not make her earlier statement a falsehood. When Clinton first set up her email in 2009, the iPad did not exist. It was not released until 2010, a year after Clinton became secretary of state. According to her campaign, "Clinton relied on her Blackberry for emailing. This was easiest for her. When the iPad came out in 2010, she was as curious as others and found it great for shopping, browsing, and reading articles when she traveled. She also had access to her email account on her iPad and sometimes used it for that too."
The two examples are very different from the straight-out falsehoods being used by the Republican campaigns. And the concession from the Clinton campaign is very different from the Fiorina campaign's response to disparities in her past statements about Hewlett-Packard, in which the Times noted "Mrs. Fiorina's campaign aides seemed unperturbed by the discrepancies and declined to make the candidate available for comment."
Rather than report on the phenomenon of falsehoods from Republican candidates and how those campaigns are responding to reporting and fact checking of those stories, the Times instead chose to create a false equivalence and pretend that the problem is "bipartisan."
Like lawn signs and pep rallies, the return of conservative cries about liberal media bias in recent days represents something of a campaign tradition. Sparked by outrage over CNBC's handling of the Republican primary debate, the condemnations came raining down.
The latest caterwauling has certainly been more pronounced and better organized than the typical bouts of complaining about how journalists are supposedly working in conjunction with the Democratic Party to torpedo the GOP. All of which comes as news to Hillary Clinton, I'm sure.
Republicans have been using the liberal bias claim as a battering ram for 50 years. (Sen. Barry Goldwater in April, 1964: "Republicans generally do not get good press.") And mainstream journalists often echo the allegation, the way Bloomberg's Mark Halperin did this week: "There's huge liberal media bias."
But do you notice how the liberal media allegation is usually wrapped in hazy ambiguity, and the way conservatives have such a hard time pointing to concrete evidence of media malice? Even in the wake of the CNBC debate, an event allegedly so lopsided and unfair that it ignited a movement meltdown, most conservative critics were reduced to complaining that the "tone" of the debate questions were too mean, and that moderators didn't show enough respect.
In truth, the CNBC debate questions were quite substantive and I didn't see any individual queries that clearly reeked of bias. On the flip side, proving it's a conservative fantasy that the Beltway press adheres to a liberal agenda remains a very simple task.
Three words: The Iraq War. Or eight words: The Iraq War and The New York Times. The recent passing of Iraqi power broker Ahmed Chalabi only throws that contrast into a sharper light.
The Iraq War and the media's lapdog, obedient performance during the run-up to America's pre-emptive invasion effectively demolishes claims of liberal media bias simply because so many journalists teamed up with the Republican White House to help sponsor the disastrous war. At a time of heightened patriotic fervor, the national press played a central role in helping to sell a war to the public.
The performance represented a collective fiasco and should have been the spike through the heart of the liberal bias claim.
As Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler wrote, the Beltway media performance in 2002 and 2003 likely represented an historic failure. "How did a country on the leading edge of the information age get this so wrong and express so little skepticism and challenge?" asked Getler. "How did an entire system of government and a free press set out on a search for something and fail to notice, or even warn us in a timely or prominent way, that it wasn't or might not be there?"
And just last year the Times' public editor, Margaret Sullivan, reminded readers, "The lead-up to the war in Iraq in 2003 was not The Times's finest hour."
At first, the correlation might have been difficult to see: Bush leading America into a costly war in 2003 and Republican complaining about the "liberal media" in 2015. Then on Monday came the news of Chalabi's death and suddenly a connection became easier to recognize.
Who was Ahmed Chalabi? The influential Iraqi politician reportedly served as the main source of bogus information that former Times reporter Judith Miller used in her thoroughly discredited work about Iraq's supposedly brimming stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. It was Chalabi who wove Saddam Hussein fiction and it was Miller who gave it the Times stamp approval as the paper did its part to lead the nation to war. (Miller is now a Fox News contributor.)
Here's how a former CIA analyst described the closed loop that existed between Miller, Chalabi and the Bush White House:
Chalabi is providing the Bush people with the information they need to support their political objectives with Iraq, and he is supplying the same material to Judy Miller. Chalabi tips her on something and then she goes to the White House, which has already heard the same thing from Chalabi, and she gets it corroborated by some insider she always describes as a 'senior administration official.' She also got the Pentagon to confirm things for her, which made sense, since they were working so closely with Chalabi.
Chalabi was spinning wild tales about Iraq's WMD's and the New York Times couldn't wait to publish them. Then-executive editor Howell Raines reportedly wanted to prove the paper's conservative critics wrong.
"According to half a dozen sources within the Times, Raines wanted to prove once and for all that he wasn't editing the paper in a way that betrayed his liberal beliefs," wrote Seth Mnookin in his 2004 Times exposé, Hard News. Mnookin quoted Doug Frantz, the former investigative editor of the Times, who recalled how "Howell Raines was eager to have articles that supported the warmongering out of Washington. He discouraged pieces that were at odds with the administration's position on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged links of al-Qaeda."
Asking debate questions that aren't sufficiently polite in tone, or helping to sell a disastrous, $3 trillion war. You tell me which media offense is more egregious.
Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.
Media outlets refuted Gov. Chris Christie's (R-NJ) claims that a lack of support from President Obama and increased scrutiny of police are leading to an increase in crime, explaining that "2015 is actually on pace to have near-record low levels of deadly violence against police." The so-called "Ferguson Effect," that Christie alluded to, is a right-wing media myth that has used flawed or cherry-picked data to link supposed increases in crime rates to the increased scrutiny of police following episodes of police brutality and has been roundly debunked by experts