New York Times

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  • NY Times Highlights How Trump’s “Whole Frame Of Reference” Is Right-Wing Media Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin explained that because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “‘whole frame of reference’” for his campaign strategy has been conservative media outlets and discredited conspiracy theories, he’s “obliterated” the line separating elected officials and “conservative mischief makers.”

    Trump has long had a symbiotic relationship with conservative media. Fox News and other right-wing news outlets have built up his campaign and repeatedly defended his controversial policies and rhetoric while Trump has echoed their talking points and peddled their conspiracy theories -- most recently including the claim the Clintons were involved with the death of aide Vince Foster. Trump regularly surrounds himself with and lauds known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, an infamous 9/11 truther, and Roger Stone, a notorious dirty trickster who alleges the Clintons are murderers.Trump has also courted and pushed the claims of discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein, whose conspiracies on the Clintons have been called “fan faction” and “smut.”

    In a May 25 piece, Martin noted that Trump has obliterated “the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides.”Martin also quoted Republican strategists explaining that Trump’s “whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and [Alex Jones’] Infowars.” From the May 25 New York Times piece:

    Ever since talk radio, cable news and the Internet emerged in the 1990s as potent political forces on the right, Republicans have used those media to attack their opponents through a now-familiar two-step.

    Political operatives would secretly place damaging information with friendly outlets like The Drudge Report and Fox News and with radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh — and then they would work to get the same information absorbed into the mainstream media.

    Candidates themselves would avoid being seen slinging mud, if possible, so as to avoid coming across as undignified or desperate.

    Yet by personally broaching topics like Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and the conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a Clinton White House aide, Donald J. Trump is again defying the norms of presidential politics and fashioning his own outrageous style — one that has little use for a middleman, let alone usual ideas about dignity.

    “They’ve reverse-engineered the way it has always worked because they now have a candidate willing to say it himself,” said Danny Diaz, who was a top aide in Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, speaking with a measure of wonder about the spectacle of the party’s presumptive nominee discussing Mr. Clinton’s sexual escapades.

    With Mr. Trump as the Republican standard-bearer, the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides has been obliterated. Fusing what had been two separate but symbiotic forces, Mr. Trump has begun a real-life political science experiment: What happens when a major party’s nominee is more provocateur than politician?


    Roger J. Stone Jr., the political operative who is Mr. Trump’s longtime confidant and an unapologetic stirrer of strife, called Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney “losers” for their more restrained approaches.

    But that is precisely what has many Republicans, and some Democrats, nervous.

    “He’s never been involved in policy making or party building or the normal things a candidate would do,” said Jon Seaton, a Republican strategist. “His whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and Infowars,” a website run by the conservative commentator Alex Jones.

    Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s former chief of staff, said Mr. Trump was making common cause with “the lunatic fringe,” citing his willingness to appear on the radio show of Mr. Jones, who has claimed that Michelle Obama is a man.

  • Trump Called NYT Story About His Treatment Of Women “Libelous” But Hasn't Officially Requested A Retraction

    Erik Wemple: This Is “More Corroboration That The Trump Campaign Is Running A Media-Obsessed, Substance-Averse Campaign”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s campaign has not asked The New York Times for a correction following its feature on Trump’s behavior with women, according to The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

    Trump’s campaign highly criticized a New York Timesfeature, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” which highlighted multiple women who revealed “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” from the Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump responded to the story, tweeting that the Times “lied” and wrote a “malicious & libelous story” on him. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “They need to do a retraction and they need to actually be fair, because they’re destroying their paper.”

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote on May 20 that campaigns “that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing,” noting that “no such letter has issued from the Trump camp.” Wemple continued that the campaign’s public response and lack of an official request to the Times was “more corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign”:

    Campaigns, celebrities, companies and institutions that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing. Anyone in media is familiar with this species of communication — stern, scolding and sometimes nasty in tone, the letters explain the alleged lapses in reporting, the impact of the alleged lapses in reporting, and the request: A full retraction of the story’s central thesis. Or something along those lines.

    No such letter has issued from the Trump camp, according to the New York Times. “Since the story was published, we have not received any direct communication from the Trump people*. They did not seek a correction or initiate any other action,” writes New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an email to the Erik Wemple Blog.

    More corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign. Were the Trump people authentically interested in securing a correction or retraction from the New York Times, they would have sent a letter and sought a meeting. Such an effort would have been a slog, for sure: The New York Times has stood by its story and even issued a statement rebuffing Brewer Lane’s complaints. “Ms. Brewer Lane was quoted fairly, accurately and at length,” noted the statement, in part. As this blog wrote this week, the Trump case against the women story was weak. Yet campaigns that put their gripes in written form can reap significant benefits, as the Clinton campaign demonstrated last summer in blasting the New York Times for its story about Hillary Clinton’s email.

    Perhaps Trump didn’t have the time to muster a retraction request, after all. He may have been too busy calling into a CNN control room to orchestrate favorable media coverage.

    *After this story was published, the New York Times sent a clarification of the circumstances: “A lawyer in Trump’s office called [Executive Editor] Dean Baquet earlier this week. The lawyer did not seek a correction or dispute any facts or quotes in the story. The Times has received no formal requests for a correction or any other action.” The headline was amended to account for this change.

  • The Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen Slams Media’s False Narrative That Trump Appeals To Progressives

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC producer Steve Benen criticized media outlets for their "plainly wrong" portrayal of some of Donald Trump’s policies as “progressive.” Benen lamented the failure of The Washington Post and The New York Times to explain the contradictions between Trump’s policies and historically liberal ideology, and slammed their misleading thesis that Trump may have something to offer progressive voters.

    Media have reported Trump’s false claim that he originally opposed going to war in Iraq to claim that he is to the left of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, while ignoring his openness to nuclear proliferation, his support for military intervention in both Iraq and Libya, and his call to send tens of thousands of ground troops to Syria. And despite his support for reductions in Medicare and Social Security, ​The New York Times compared Trump's positions on entitlements to those of Bernie Sanders.

    In the May 18 blog post, Benen criticized The Post and the The Times for reporting Trump's stances as progressive, saying that “given it’s historical underpinnings, there’s nothing liberal about Trump’s “America’s First” vision” and slamming the media for falsely reporting that Trump is willing “to shift ‘to the left on the minimum wage and tax policy.’” Benen explained that the media may find it appealing to tout Trump as having national appeal that transcends political ideologies, but this “thesis is belied by reality” given that Trump’s position “offers literally nothing for progressive voters” (emphasis added):

    Some of the political media establishment has apparently settled on a new “narrative”: Donald Trump will appeal to Democrats by breaking with Republican orthodoxy and endorsing some progressive goals. It might be a compelling thesis, if it were in any way true.

    The Washington Post got the ball rolling last week with a provocative, attention-getting headline: “How Donald Trump is running to the left of Hillary Clinton.” As proof, the article noted, among other things, Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, and his willingness to shift “to the left on the minimum wage and tax policy.”

    The problem, of course, is much of this is factually incorrect. Given its historical underpinnings, there’s nothing liberal about Trump’s “America First” vision, and the media hype surrounding Trump’s purported shifts on the minimum wage and tax policy turned out to be completely wrong. The Post’s entire thesis struggled under scrutiny.

    And yet, there it was again in the New York Times yesterday.


    Again, if these observations were rooted in fact, the thesis might have merit, but it’s important not to fall for shallow hype and bogus narratives. Trump did not endorse a minimum-wage hike; he actually said there shouldn’t be a federal minimum wage at all. He did not call for higher taxes on the wealthy; he proposed literally the exact opposite.

    And far from “attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left on … Wall Street,” a few hours after the Times article was published, Trump insisted he would repeal Dodd-Frank reforms – which represents an attack from the right, not the left.


    It’s easy to get the impression that the media likes the idea – not the reality, but the idea – of Trump having broad national appeal, enough to woo disaffected Democrats and Bernie Sanders’ most ardent backers, and defeat Clinton in a general election. But the thesis is belied by reality. Trump’s platform – on the economy, on immigration, on taxes, on policies towards women, on race, on torture – offers literally nothing for progressive voters, which is probably why Sanders has said he’s prepared to fight as hard as he can in the coming months to ensure Trump’s defeat.


  • Editorial Boards Call On Trump To Release His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Editorial boards are criticizing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, noting that “it has been common practice since the 1970s for the presidential nominees of both parties to release their tax returns,” explaining that Trump “should be willing to demonstrate that he has lived up to his tax obligations,” and arguing that the decision shows “a paternalistic and insulting attitude toward the public.”

  • NY Times Report Undercuts Conservative Automatic Classification Myth Used To Smear Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reported that sending “‘foreign government information’ through the government’s unclassified computer systems,” a designation that applies to “nearly three-quarters” of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s now-classified emails, “‘does not amount to mishandling the information.’” The Times also revealed that CIA Director John Brennan sent retroactively classified information, underscoring a pattern of “how routinely sensitive information is emailed on unclassified government servers.”

    Right-wing media have relentlessly attempted to scandalize Clinton's email use. Conservative pundits have alleged that “foreign government communications are considered classified” and that sending “information derived from foreign government sources ... in a non-classified setting violates” the law. But according to a 2009 executive order, it is not mandatory to classify communications concerning foreign government information.

    The New York Times report substantiated this, revealing that the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, Julia Frifield, sent a letter to Capitol Hill stating that “officials were in fact allowed to send ‘foreign government information’ through the government’s unclassified computer systems.” Frifield’s letter “went on to say that using ‘foreign government information’ in unclassified emails ‘does not amount to mishandling the information,’” and that these correspondences are only made classified if they have to be released to the public. The Times noted that “nearly three-quarters” of Clinton’s now-classified emails are “classified because they contained what is called ‘foreign government information’” and were publicly released. The article also revealed that CIA Director John Brennan sent retroactively classified information, reinforcing how “routinely sensitive information is emailed on unclassified government servers” by top officials. From the May 11 New York Times report:

    On the morning of March 13, 2011, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, Jeffrey D. Feltman, wrote an urgent email to more than two dozen colleagues informing them that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were sending troops into Bahrain to put down antigovernment protests there.

    Mr. Feltman’s email prompted a string of 10 replies and forwards over the next 24 hours, including to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as the Obama administration debated what was happening and how to respond.

    The chain contained information now declared classified, including portions of messages written by Mr. Feltman; the former ambassador in Kuwait, Deborah K. Jones; and the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John O. Brennan.

    The top administration officials discussed the Bahrain situation on unclassified government computer networks, except for Mrs. Clinton, who used a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

    Her server is now the subject of an F.B.I. investigation, which is likely to conclude in the next month, about whether classified information was mishandled.

    Whatever the disposition of the investigation, the discussion of troops to Bahrain reveals how routinely sensitive information is emailed on unclassified government servers, reflecting what many officials describe as diplomacy in the age of the Internet, especially in urgent, fast-developing situations.


    Of the 30,322 emails made public, 2,028 have had portions redacted and are now classified at the lowest level of classification, “confidential.”

    Nearly three-quarters of those emails were classified because they contained what is called “foreign government information” — a vast category of information, gathered through conversations and meetings with foreign counterparts that are the fundamentals of diplomacy, but which had to be protected when the emails were released.

    Last week, in an apparent attempt to dispel criticism that many of the emails were improperly sent, a top State Department official argued in a letter to three Senate Democrats that the nation’s diplomats and officials were in fact allowed to send “foreign government information” through the government’s unclassified computer systems.

    “Department officials of necessity routinely receive such information through unclassified channels,” said the letter, dated May 2 and written by the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, Julia Frifield.

    “For example, diplomats engage in meetings with counterparts in open settings, have phone calls with foreign contacts over unsecure lines, and email with and about foreign counterparts via unclassified systems.”

    The letter went on to say that using “foreign government information” in unclassified emails “does not amount to mishandling the information.”

    The State Department, unlike some other federal agencies, does not have the authority to redact that category of information even if it is required to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Thus, the only way the State Department could withhold “foreign government information” in the emails being released under court order was to classify it, according to the letter.

  • North Carolina Newspapers Call Out Gov. McCrory For Defending Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Bill”

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    North Carolina editorial boards are criticizing Gov. Pat McCrory (R) after he filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in defense of the state’s anti-LGBT bathroom bill. McCrory claimed that the federal government had no authority to demand state legislators rework the law so it isn't discriminatory, and state newspapers denounced the governor for “defending the indefensible” and engaging in a “disturbing” legal battle that “won’t end well” for North Carolina.

  • NY Times Highlights The Problem With Letting “Those Who Have Demonized” Abortion Dominate The Conversation

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    A New York Times report about a Washington, D.C., hospital’s gag order on an abortion provider demonstrates the pervasive nature of abortion stigma. MedStar Washington Hospital Center barred abortion provider Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper from advocating for greater abortion access, citing fear of anti-choice violence, and the doctor has now filed a civil rights complaint against her employer.

    Hospital officials had issued Horvath-Cosper’s gag order after anti-choice extremist Robert Lewis Dear carried out his deadly attack on the Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs last November, according to the Times’ May 2 article. The hospital’s medical director ordered Horvath-Cosper “to end her advocacy” “out of concerns for security,” saying he didn’t want to draw attention to MedStar’s abortion services. Horvath-Cosper responded by filing her civil rights complaint.

    Fears of anti-choice violence are not unfounded. Last summer, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos baselessly alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue -- earning CMP and its founder, David Daleiden, the title of Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year. Although CMP’s work has been largely discredited, the videos sparked an unprecedented spike in the rate of anti-choice violence against abortion providers and clinics.

    Horvath-Cosper knows these risks, but she argued that when providers and advocates “cower and pull back” from public dialogues about abortion, it creates a dangerous vacuum that is filled by “those who have demonized this totally normal part of health care.” As the Times noted, Horvath-Cosper is far from alone in her belief that allowing right-wing media and anti-choice groups to dominate the conversation about abortion is dangerous. Instead, the paper explained, she is part of a larger group of providers “who argue that silence about their work only feeds the drive to stigmatize and restrict abortion.”

    Abortion stigma is the “shared understanding that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable." This belief is reinforced through media coverage, popular culture, and by many people’s lack of accurate information about the procedure itself. Right-wing media and anti-choice groups have worked relentlessly to capitalize on this lack of public knowledge by consistently demonizing abortion providers and fearmongering about the safety of abortion procedures. Right-wing media have referred to abortion as sickening, “grisly,” “selfish,” and on par with terrorism. They have also attacked abortion providers, calling them “villains” and comparing them to Nazis.

    Despite abortion being both common and overwhelmingly safe, anti-choice groups have consistently attempted to “exploit the stigma of abortion.” Anti-choice legislators have similarly relied on fearmongering about the safety of abortion to pass medically unnecessary restrictions. The consequences of losing access to abortion care are severe. For example, in a study conducted after the passage of Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, researchers found that 100,000 to 240,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 had attempted to self-induce an abortion, demonstrating that increased barriers to accessing abortion in Texas put women at risk.

    But challenging abortion stigma by encouraging greater public dialogue is not new to reproductive health advocates. The organizations Sea Change, #ShoutYourAbortion, and the 1 in 3 Campaign all encourage people to speak out about their experiences with abortion through a variety of mediums.

    Speaking to NPR, Horvath-Cosper underscored the importance of providers challenging abortion stigma and continuing to provide abortion care when possible. “The message that we’ve all gotten in society is that abortion is shameful, and that people who have abortions should be shamed, and I think that’s something we need to work against,” she said.

    According to ThinkProgress, “if anything, this silencing has further inspired Horvath-Cosper to vocalize her defense of abortion and abortion providers.” As Horvath-Cosper explained in a May 3 press release:

    “Especially at a time when abortion is marginalized and under attack, I’m compelled to speak out about the importance of abortion as a legal and safe medical procedure that’s critical to women’s health,” said Horvath-Cosper in a Tuesday press release. “Abortion has become so stigmatized in this country. As a doctor, I have a responsibility to urge that abortion be recognized as the integral part of women’s medical care that it is.”

    During a conversation with Slate journalist Jennifer Conti, Horvath-Cosper again reaffirmed this commitment. In a text to Conti, Horvath-Cosper wrote: “Our silence has never and will never protect us. Patients deserve better than shame and secrecy.”

  • Media Point To Data To Show "It's Simply Not True" That Latinos Like Trump

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Media are debunking Trump’s claim that he’s “’number one with Hispanics,’” highlighting polls that show his high unfavorables among Latinos, and research that shows increasing naturalization rates among foreign-born Hispanics may be tied to Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. As one of the most influential Hispanic journalists Jorge Ramos pointed out, Trump’s lack of support from the Latino electorate might make the candidate's path to the White House impossible.

  • Print Coverage Of The Gender Pay Gap Glosses Over Disproportionate Effects On Minority Groups

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    In their coverage of the gender pay gap during the week leading up to Equal Pay Day, print versions of three major newspapers largely failed to note that wage disparities are particularly acute for women of color and transgender women. Only one-third of the coverage pointed out that the pay gap is larger for women of color, and the coverage omitted any discussion of the pay gap faced by LGBT women.

    Equal Pay Day, which fell this year on April 12, marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned the previous year. Studies show that women make significantly less money than men over their lifetimes -- on average, a woman in the United States in 2014 made 79 cents for every dollar a man made -- but the gap can increase when other variables are factored in. Research from the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress demonstrates that disparities are larger for women of color. On average, African-American women earn 60 percent as much as their white male counterparts, and Latinas earn just 55 percent of what white men earn. A recent report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that location, age, and education level all factor into pay disparity, and that at every level of academic achievement, women earn less than men.

    Media Matters analyzed pay gap coverage during the week prior to Equal Pay Day in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and found that the Post and the Journal each published two articles in print about the gender pay gap, and in each paper only once mentioned race and ethnicity as a factor in pay disparities. The Times, which also printed two articles about the pay gap, failed to mention race at all. The impact of the wage gap on LGBT women was not addressed at all in the analyzed coverage.

    LGBT women are invisible in coverage of the wage gap, despite the specific impact pay disparity has on them. Experts say that LGBT people -- specifically transgender women -- are more likely to be discriminated against in the workforce and, according to Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, policy advisor for the National Center for Transgender Equality, the issues surrounding wage disparity "are heightened for transgender people."


    Media Matters analyzed pay disparity-related coverage from April 5 to April 12 -- the week leading up to and including Equal Pay Day -- on the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post using the following search terms on Nexis and Factiva: "equal pay," "wage gap," "gender pay gap," "pay discrimination," "Latinas," "Hispanic," "Black," "women of color," "LGBT," "GLBT," "LGBTQ," "trans," "transgender," "gay," "lesbian," and "queer." Articles with incidental mentions of the wage gap or of pay discrimination outside of the United States were excluded.

  • How The NY Times Tried To Turn An Interagency FOIA Fight Into A "Clinton Scandal"

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    New information and widespread media criticism of the highly flawed New York Times story that falsely implied Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal investigation over her email practices as secretary of state confirm the paper conflated two different stories to scandalize a routine bureaucratic process. In fact, the current Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) review of Clinton's emails that has led to interagency disputes over retroactive classification would have taken place regardless of whether Clinton used a private email account.

  • The New York Times' Stumbling, Problematic Transgender Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    When you hear of a media outlet peddling debunked and misleading research in order to argue against providing transgender people with important medical care, you probably don't think of The New York Times.

    But that's exactly what happened in the August 23 Sunday edition of the paper. In an op-ed titled, "How Changeable Is Gender?" Richard Friedman, a Times contributing opinion writer and professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, grossly misrepresented empirical research in order to raise doubts about gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender people, including transgender youth.

    The post was quickly debunked by Think Progress' Zack Ford and Vox's German Lopez, who criticized -- among other things -- Friedman's conflation of gender identity and gender expression, his misreading of empirical data, and his dismissal of evidence showing the benefits of gender-affirming treatment. 

    The errors in Friedman's research aren't minor -- his op-ed is based on a series of blatant oversights that undermine his conclusions. But as of Wednesday morning, The New York Times has failed to issue a correction or clarification to the op-ed. As Lopez noted, the New York Times' decision to publish "error-ridden articles like Friedman's" will likely make it harder for trans people to find supportive home and medical environments.

    The Times declined to comment on criticism of Friedman's op-ed. 

    Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident for the Times, which has come under increased scrutiny in recent months for its willingness to publish misleading and harmful commentary about the transgender community.

    In July, the Times published an op-ed titled "What Makes A Woman?" in response to Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover photo. The piece, written by journalist Elinor Burkett, was a trainwreck of harmful and offensive stereotypes about transgender women and essentially suggested that trans women haven't earned the right to be seen as 'real' women. The op-ed, which also framed trans equality as a threat to feminist politics, was condemned for peddling offensive and outdated tropes about transgender women.

    Despite the criticism, the Times rejected a rebuttal column by Meredith Talusan, a transgender writer and advocate. Talusan self-published her response, writing, "I find the way The Times keeps centering white cisgender women's perspectives on Jenner deeply disturbing."

    "[A]rguing for my existence feels par for the course this week as The New York Times has already sparked a situation where I and other trans women have been constantly put in the position of having to debate our humanity," she added.

    And then there's the Times' bizarre defense of research suggesting that some transgender women are actually just men who are sexually aroused by the idea of being a woman, sometimes referred to as "autogynephilia."

    In April, the Times published a glowing review of Galileo's Middle Finger, a book written by bioethicist Alice Dreger. Dreger is notorious for defending the widely disputed and controversial research of psychologist J. Michael Bailey, who helped popularize the idea that many trans women are actually men acting out sexual fetishes. But rather than lay out the criticisms of "autogynephilia" research, the Times' David Dobbs lauded Bailey and Dreger's work, describing them as truth-tellers facing down "enraged" transgender activists.

    This notion enraged advocates who insisted that transsexuality came invariably from an unavoidable mind-body mismatch -- a mistake of nature -- and never from a variation in taste, which some might consider an indulgence. These advocates sought not only to refute Bailey but to ruin him. When Dreger defended him, they targeted her too.

    In the end, as Dreger tells it, she and Bailey won a rough victory. When ­Dreger's book-length paper on the issue was written up warmly in The Times, formerly gun-shy allies were encouraged to speak out.

    The Dreger fiasco reveals why the Times' missteps in transgender coverage are so potentially devastating: when the paper publishes something about the transgender community, people pay attention.

    That's because, unlike the fringe right-wing media outlets that publish transphobic pseudoscience on a regular basis, the Times has a reputation for positive and affirming coverage of the transgender community. The paper has worked to avoid misgendering transgender news subjects, elevated the issue of violence against transgender women, published thoughtful editorials about the fight for transgender equality, and given transgender people an opportunity to tell and share their own stories. This week, a reader viewing Burkett's "What Makes A Woman?" on the paper's website likely saw an ad for a TimesTalk event featuring transgender actress Laverne Cox at the top of the page.

    It's that juxtaposition -- positive transgender coverage alongside damaging and misleading commentary -- that troubles advocates for the transgender community. When The New York Times publishes content that suggests trans children shouldn't be affirmed, trans women aren't 'real' women, or trans people are secretly sexual fetishists, it has more of an impact than any extreme right-wing media outlet could hope to have. It lends the paper's tremendous credibility to discredited and problematic myths about trans people. Harmful content makes up a fraction of the Times' total transgender coverage, but it's that rarity that makes the misinformation so pernicious.

    And, in the case of Friedman's most recent op-ed, it could end up doing real damage to the most vulnerable members of the transgender community. 

    Image at top via Flickr user Alec Perkins using a Creative Commons License.

  • Politico: NY Times "Refused To Publish" Clinton Campaign Criticism Of Flawed Times Report

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    New York Times

    Politico's Dylan Byers reported that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet "refused to publish" a letter from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which expressed "grave concern" with a recent flawed Times report on Clinton's email use.

    The July 23 Times story, which has now been corrected twice and which came under heavy criticism from the Times' public editor and veteran journalists, originally falsely claimed 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. "Despite the overwhelming evidence," Byers noted, "the Times did not remove the word [criminal] from its headline and its story, nor did it issue a correction, until the following day."

    Byers explained that in response, the Clinton campaign "sent a nearly 2,000-word letter to the executive editor of The New York Times this week." The campaign then forwarded the letter to reporters after "Baquet refused to publish it in the Times":

    "We remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made," Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri wrote in the letter to Dean Baquet, which the campaign forwarded to the On Media blog late Thursday night.

    "I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was," Palmieri continued. "The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing 'criminal' from the headline and text of the story."


    "In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton," Palmieri wrote. "Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many 'degrees of separation' for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times."

    Palmieri's letter, which runs 1,915 words long, includes three other complaints: 1. That the "seriousness of the allegations... demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication. 2. That the Times "incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction." And 3. That the Times' "official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling."

    "I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times," Palmieri writes in closing. "But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future."

  • Clinton Story Debacle Just The Latest In NY Times' History Of Anonymous Sourcing Problems

    If The Paper Had Listened To Its Public Editors, This Might Have Been Avoided

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    It's been more than 12 years since The New York Times suffered perhaps its biggest black eye when the Jayson Blair scandal turned the paper's credibility upside down, sparked a special report, and forced the paper's two top editors to resign in disgrace.

    Blair, then a 27-year-old rising reporter, committed a string of journalistic sins -- from plagiarism to outright lying about being at events he had supposedly covered.

    The Gray Lady's credibility was in doubt until it set in place a list of changes aimed at correcting the systemic mistakes that had allowed Blair to get away with his lies. Among those changes was hiring its first public editor, an ombudsman positon that would independently review the paper's work and freely write about it for readers.

    Soon after, in 2004, the Times issued a Policy on Confidential Sources. It stated, among other things, that the identity of anonymous sources must be known by at least one editor before a story is published, and that the paper must explain as much as possible to readers why the anonymity was granted and why the source is credible. 

    Oddly, that policy, cited in numerous public editor columns through the years, does not appear to currently be online at the Times website.

    The Times' Ethical Journalism handbook says only that the paper has a "distaste for anonymous sourcing," and mentions the Policy on Confidential Sources, saying it is "available from the office of the associate managing editor for news administration or on the Newsroom home page under Policies."

    The Times did not respond to a request for the latest version of the policy this week. Past links to the 2004 policy reach a dead page.

    Since Daniel Okrent served as the first public editor from December 2003 to May 2005, four others have held that role (including Margaret Sullivan, who currently occupies the position).

    Despite the public editor post and the confidential source policy, the paper has not overcome its problems with sources that seek anonymity.

    The most recent example is the poor reporting on a supposed "criminal investigation" targeting Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state, which appeared in the paper last week sourced to anonymous "senior government officials." After publication, the Times had to issue corrections walking back two of the story's central claims -- that the requested probe was targeting Clinton herself, and that it was "criminal" in nature.

    Stretching back to when the paper initially updated the story without issuing a formal correction, the Times has generally done a poor job managing the debacle.

    The latest attempt at damage control was an editor's note issued Tuesday that said the approach to correcting the story had "left readers with a confused picture." But it did not explain how or why the paper got so much wrong.

    It is clear, however, that one of the problems was relying on anonymous sources, and poor ones at that.

    Sullivan drew needed attention when she posted a scathing column on the email situation Monday, stating the story had "major journalistic problems."

    Sullivan wrote that two Times editors involved with the story -- executive editor Dean Baquet and deputy executive editor Matt Purdy -- agreed "that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources." But Baquet was also quoted pinning much of the story's failure on those sources -- rather than Times staffers -- telling Sullivan, "You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral ... I'm not sure what they could have done differently on that."

    As part of her prescription for how the paper could learn from the fiasco, Sullivan suggested the Times should discuss "the rampant use of anonymous sources."

    This is far from the first time a public editor has pointed to anonymous sourcing as a pressing issue at the paper. A review of public editor columns dating back to Okrent's days finds numerous incidents in which the public editor at the time had to take the paper to task for its use, or misuse, of confidential sources.

    Sullivan herself has raised the issue in the past several times, and even created what she terms AnonyWatch, a recurring feature on how anonymous sources are used in the paper.

    "This post is the inaugural edition of an effort to point out some of the more regrettable examples of anonymous quotations in The Times," she wrote when it launched on March 18, 2014. "I've written about this from time to time, as have my predecessors, to little or no avail."

    "My view isn't black and white: I recognize that there are stories -- especially those on the national security beat -- in which using confidential sources is important," Sullivan wrote in a June 2014 column. "And I acknowledge that some of the most important stories in the past several decades would have been impossible without their use. But, in my view, they are allowed too often and for reasons that don't clear the bar of acceptability, which should be set very high."

    As Sullivan explained in an October 12, 2013, column, the Times' stylebook says, "Anonymity is a last resort."

    Okrent, during his first year on the job in 2004, penned a lengthy review of anonymous sourcing, noting at the time the problems the paper had with properly explaining who sources were, adding, "The easiest reform to institute would turn the use of unidentified sources into an exceptional event."

    He later stated, "it's worth reconsidering the entire nature of reportorial authority and responsibility. In other words, why quote anonymous sources at all? Do their words take on more credibility because they're flanked with quotation marks?"

    Byron Calame, who held the public editor post from May 2005 to May 2007, also took anonymous sourcing to task on a few occasions.

    In a November 30, 2005, column urging more transparency on such sources, Calame wrote, "Anonymous sourcing can be both a blessing and a curse for journalism -- and for readers," adding that top editors' "commitment to top-level oversight, and to providing sufficient editing attention to ignite those 'daily conversations' about sources, has to be sustained long after the recent clamor over the paper's use of anonymous sourcing has faded away."

    He wrote on July 30, 2006, "Some realities of anonymous sourcing negotiations deserve to be noted, even if some people think they're obvious. When reporters accept anonymity demands, it's almost always because of one overriding reason that is seldom explicitly acknowledged: the reporter wanted or needed information that a reluctant source possessed. That's probably one reason some of The Times's past explanations for anonymity have been so absurd."

    Clark Hoyt, who served as public editor from May 2007 to June 2010, broached the subject numerous times -- usually with sharp demands for skepticism and rarity in the use of such sourcing.

    "The Times continues to hurt itself with readers by misusing anonymous sources," Hoyt wrote on April 17, 2010, in a column laying out a list of problematic examples. "Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous."

    On March 21, 2009, Hoyt objected again to the overuse of confidential voices, stating, "The Times has a tough policy on anonymous sources, but continues to fall down in living up to it. That's my conclusion after scanning a sampling of articles published in all sections of the paper since the first of the year. This will not surprise the many readers who complain to me that the paper lets too many of its sources hide from public view."

    The public editor prior to Sullivan was Arthur Brisbane, who served in the role from August 2010 to August 2012. He opined on the issue only a handful of times, according to Times archives.

    Since Sullivan took over, however, she has made the issue a key part of her regular reviews, with the Clinton email reporting problems a clear example that the paper has not followed its own guidelines and has not adhered to the Times' legendary history of correcting even the most minute details.

    When Dean Baquet says that it's hard to know what the reporters and editors on the botched Clinton story "could have done differently," he is failing to take into account the anonymous source lessons of the past, and the rebukes from public editors over the years.