NY Times Magazine's Robert Draper: Trump Has Started A "War" That "Has Fractured The Conservative Media"
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Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.
As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.”
In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.
In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.
Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”
CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:
“It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”
GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.
The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.
Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:
But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.
Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”
The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.
Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko.
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David Samuels Falsely Attacks President Obama And Ben Rhodes, Fails To Disclose Conflict Of Interest
A New York Times Magazine profile of the Obama administration’s push to cement the Iran nuclear deal baselessly claimed that President Obama and a top White House aide, Ben Rhodes, “largely manufactured” a narrative about the deal and “actively” misled the public to win support, despite reports to the contrary. The author, David Samuels, also failed to disclose his past criticism of the Iran deal and advocacy for bombing Iran.
The New York Times' Mark Landler and Maureen Dowd are baselessly claiming that Hillary Clinton would be more likely to bring the nation to war if elected president than Donald Trump, in part due to Trump's claims of opposition to the Iraq War. In fact, Trump supported the Iraq War, has refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Europe, has floated military engagement with Iran, and called for U.S. invasions of Libya and Syria.
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The New York Times Magazine released an unusual cover depicting the face of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a planet for its January 26 edition. Here are the New York Times Magazine covers featuring current, former, and would-be national political figures over the past five years:
Author Stephen Jimenez's suggestion that The New York Times Magazine killed a 2004 story he had written about the murder of Matthew Shepard because it was too politically sensitive is false, according to the former Times editor who worked on the story.
Jimenez claimed in the story -- and in a new book -- that Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student murdered in 1998, was not killed in an act of anti-gay hate, but instead as a result of a drug-induced rage. Shepard's murder became a rallying call for the LGBT movement; a hate crimes prevention law named after him was signed into law in 2009.
Paul Tough, who was an editor at the magazine in 2004 and the one Jimenez says reviewed his piece, said the spiking of the story had nothing to do with politics. It just wasn't good enough.
"My recollection is definitely that it was not killed because it was politically sensitive, but that the story just wasn't there for all of the reasons that stories sometimes aren't there," said Tough, now an author himself and Times magazine contributor. "I remember being really interested in the idea and I think the Times Magazine doesn't shy away from controversy and we're interested in new takes on things and the only reason we had assigned the story was this new idea."
"But for whatever reason," Tough added, Jimenez "was a person I think who didn't have a lot of experience in long-form magazine writing. And so the story never got to the level where we could publish it ... it was not killed for political reasons at all."
Shepard truthers in the right-wing media have cited Jimenez's new book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, to assail hate crime legislation and the larger push for LGBT rights. But Jimenez's argument is tainted by its reliance on wild extrapolation, questionable and often inconsistent sources, theories that critics of his work are engaged in a "cover-up" of politically sensitive truths, and the dismissal of any evidence that runs contrary to his central thesis.
Glenn Beck sat down with the New York Times Magazine for an interview about his plans for a new media empire, and did what he usually does when talking to mainstream press outlets: he dropped his flamethrowing, end-times routine and adopted the posture of an ambitious, misunderstood entrepreneur. Beck wants to reach a larger audience and doesn't want to freak out Times readers, so when the Times asked him about the political focus of his show, Beck tried to come off as reasonable. "What people don't ever understand is this: I'm the guy who lives in Dallas who did not get an invitation to the George Bush Presidential Library opening," Beck said. "He didn't like me. I had called for his impeachment. I didn't call for Obama's impeachment. People think I just hate this president. No, I hate power and those who do everything they can to hold onto it."
It's simply not true that Beck "didn't call for Obama's impeachment." Back in May, as the political media were obsessing over Benghazi hearings and the since-deflated IRS scandal, Beck called for a special counsel to be appointed to "explore the impeachment of this president." In April, after Beck led the reprehensible effort to link an innocent Saudi man to the Boston marathon bombings, Beck said that Americans should "demand impeachment" because, in his view, the government was covering up the Saudi's non-existent role in the attack. If Americans didn't do so, Beck said, "we don't stand a chance."
At a Tea Party rally in June at the Capitol, Beck was asked about impeachment, and he said that impeaching Obama wouldn't go far enough. "If they can take it to impeachment -- I personally think there's a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who shouldn't be impeached, they should go to jail," Beck said. Asked if Obama was one of them, Beck replied: "Yeah."
Again, this is the Beck routine. When he's talking to his usual audience or the Tea Party faithful, he's calling for impeachment and inveighing against progressives with the most inflammatory language he can muster. When he's talking to The New York Times, he says things like this:
Can we stop dividing ourselves? Do racists exist? Yes. Do bigots exist? Yes. But most of us are not. Most Americans just want to get along. Why can't we do that? What has happened to us?
Funnily enough, the Times interviewer later asked Beck about his commitment to "hunt down progressives like an Israeli Nazi hunter," and Beck -- mere moments after bemoaning the instinct to "divide ourselves" -- briefly reverted to type: "Oh, I will. I think these guys are the biggest danger in the world. It's the people like Mao, people that believe that big government is the answer, it always leads to millions dead -- always."
While traveling with the president to California on Wednesday, White House correspondents quizzed Obama spokesman Jay Carney about the issues of the day, and this exchange took place [emphasis added]:
Q: Can I ask you about the California fundraisers, in particular? The President is getting a lot of heat over cavorting with showbiz types. Rush Limbaugh is referring to him as Barack Kardashian, can you believe. What is your response to that?
The claim that Obama spends too much time with celebrities is one that the president's critics have been making for years. And the White House reporter who quizzed Carney about the rather dubious topic could have referenced Republican leaders who have made the claim in the past. Instead, the reporter quoted Rush Limbaugh and wanted to know what the White House reaction was to a talker from the right-wing media world who compared president to a reality TV personality.
That was on Wednesday. Over the weekend, writing in the New York Times Magazine, Steve Almond, a self-described liberal, announced the problem with liberals today is they spend too much time obsessing over, and monitoring, the right-wing media:
Media outlets like MSNBC and The Huffington Post often justify their coverage of these voices by claiming to serve as watchdogs. It would be more accurate to think of them as de facto loudspeakers for conservative agitprop. The demagogues of the world, after all, derive power solely from their ability to provoke reaction. Those liberals (like me) who take the bait, are to blame for their outsize influence.
Instead, Almond instructed, liberals and Democrats should simply ignore the likes of Limbaugh and Fox News and the far-right blogosphere. If liberals do, he says conservative media players would be rendered powerless because if liberals stop paying attention to them, the Beltway press is sure to follow.
Almond's advice strikes me as being singularly misguided. Indeed, the let's-ignore-right-wing-media guidance represents a truly naïve argument that reflects very little about what's going in American politics and media today.
Assigning a Rush Limbaugh fan and biographer to profile right-wing activist James O'Keefe wasn't exactly a daring choice by editors at The New York Times Magazine. The fact that the resulting puff piece is a predictably soft retread of O'Keefe's often-told tale should surprise no one.
What is odd is that the Times would publish such comically inaccurate characterizations of O'Keefe's adventures in undercover video stings; stings that have proven time and again he's incapable of telling the truth.
Those are the facts. They are not in dispute. But in the loving hands of Times writer Zev Chafets, O'Keefe is portrayed as an enterprising, muckraking journalist. And in the loving hands of Zev Chafets, O'Keefe is portrayed exactly the way O'Keefe wants to be portrayed.
I realize that's Chafets' niche at the Times, to bring his partisan, conservative perspective when writing profiles of partisan conservative media figures, and to do his best to paper over anything unflattering about the subject at hand. That's what he did with his New York Times Magazine cover story on Limbaugh in 2008. (The super-soft profile helped Chafets land a Ditto-ography book deal.)
And I understand why Chafets likes the very easy gig. It makes little sense, though, why the Times would be interested in publishing this kind of predictable feature about O'Keefe. Regardless of the motivation, what about the facts? What about O'Keefe's ACORN and NPR stings for instance, and the controversy that soon engulfed him over allegations he had edited his clips in order to concocts sinister stories? How does the Times deal with those issues?
This is a rather remarkable observation, from Joshua Green's Atlantic dispatch, on the first official day of Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign [emphasis added];
A few weeks ago, I was up in New Hampshire for Jon Huntsman's maiden swing through the state as a possible -- it's now official -- presidential candidate. The rest of the national press corps seemed to be there, too. At many of the events, we reporters outnumbered actual voters, sometimes vastly.
I wasn't at Huntsman's announcement speech in New Jersey this morning, but word on the ground is that, as in New Hampshire, there were still more members of the media present than actual voters.
This makes no sense, of course, because reporters are supposed to cover the news, not make it. (Right?) But this unfolding phenomenon of lopsided, out-of-context coverage of Republican candidates is indicative of how the Beltway press seems to be throwing itself at the feet of truly marginal candidates, such as Huntsman (who recently finished dead last in an NBC/WSJ poll of possible Republican candidates), and at the feet of would-be candidates, such as Republican governors Rick Perry in Texas and Chris Christie in New Jersey. (Not to mention Sarah Palin.)
In each of these cases, the candidates, or maybe-candidates, have enjoyed the glow of habitual coverage even though they have done absolutely nothing to earn it. Instead, the buzz has been mostly manufactured by the eager pundit class.
Traditionally, candidates had to earn the attention of the press, and did that in many ways, such as straw poll victories, fundraising prowess, impressive debate performances, or attracting huge crowds on the campaign trail. In others words, candidates first needed to build am actual buzz before the press would shower them with attention.
With today's Republican field however, candidates don't even have to become candidates and the press showers them with campaign attention. Think I'm exaggerating? Last week, CNN aired a mostly softball, 60-minute, primetime interview with Gov. Christie, who claims he isn't even running for president.
Or in the case of Huntsman, a Republican can become a candidate, have virtually nothing to show for their efforts (i.e. crowds, polling, fundraising, debate victories), and the press still showers them with attention. Exaggeration? This Sunday's New York Times Magazine will feature an eight-page, 6,200-word piece on Huntsman; a candidate who today remains virtually an unknown among voters.
I really do think we've entered uncharted waters here. And no, I don't think it's a coincidence Republicans are benefiting from the new (non-existent?) guidelines that the press have adopted for the 2012 race, where candidates like Huntsman don't have to accomplish a thing before being rewarded with a growing media spotlight.
Per THE NYTPICKER:
"The Times does not allow writers to replicate language without attribution."
Those words appear in a NYT Editor's Note this morning, holding a freelance writer accountable for an "unwitting" lift from another writer's email in last Sunday's NYT Magazine cover story on whales.
But those words apply equally to NYT columnist Maureen Dowd, who replicated language from a friend's email -- which turned out to be plagiarized -- without attribution in her May 13 column. Yet her clear violation of that NYT policy has continued to go unaddressed by the NYT.
The NYT's double-standard in protecting Dowd on recent charges of plagiarism were never clearer than in this morning's Editor's Note -- putting freelance writer Charles Siebert out to dry for appropriating a handful of descriptive words from a source's email in his 7,498-word account of the way whales may be communicating with humans.
Siebert -- a successful author who has written several cover stories for the NYT Magazine, with particular emphasis on animals -- claims his mistake was "unwitting." Dowd called hers "inadvertent." Why does Dowd's explanation take her off the hook, while Siebert gets punished with an extensive editor's note?
Two months after lifting the contents on an entire email from a friend and putting it in her May 17 column -- learning later that the passage had been plagiarized from blogger Josh Marshall -- Dowd has never explained those events to readers, or had them addressed in any form other than a brief, benign next-day correction. Since then, Dowd and NYT officials have repeatedly ignored requests from The NYTPicker for comment on whether the paper conducted any internal investigation into Dowd's actions, to determine the truth of her flimsy account.
The New York Times Magazine is slated to publish a story on March 29 -- promoting the controversial global warming views of physicist Freeman Dyson -- that was written, not by a scientist or science writer, but by Nicholas Dawidoff, whose previous work for the Times has focused largely on sports and music.
A New York Times Magazine profile of global warming skeptic Freeman Dyson quotes without challenge his false suggestion that there was a scientific consensus in the 1970s that the earth was cooling. Unlike the current consensus that global warming exists, there was no consensus in the 1970s that the earth was cooling.