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."