The New York Times’ front page story on Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico and subsequent immigration speech was sharply denounced by reporters who said its positive tone did not match reality. Following the publication of the article and criticism from the press, the Times made numerous edits to the article.
Following Trump’s widely criticized speech on immigration where he painted immigrants as murders, criminals running free, and “low-skilled workers with less education” taking jobs from citizens, the Times’ Patrick Healy published a glowing review of Trump’s “audacious attempt .. to remake his image on the divisive issue of immigration,” calling Trump’s trip to Mexico and subsequent speech a “spirited bid for undecided American voters to see him anew.” The original story read, in part:
Donald J. Trump made an audacious attempt on Wednesday to remake his image on the divisive issue of immigration, shelving his plan to deport 11 million undocumented people and suggesting that the United States and Mexico would solve the immigration crisis together.
In a spirited bid for undecided American voters to see him anew, Mr. Trump swept into Mexico City to make overtures to a nation he has repeatedly denigrated, then flew to Phoenix to outline his latest priorities on immigration — a stark turnaround from the “deportation force” and other severe tactics that helped win him the Republican nomination.
On a more personal level, Mr. Trump also wanted to show undecided voters that he had the temperament and self-control of a statesman — qualities that many doubt he has — and also demonstrate that Americans did not need to worry every time he opened his mouth in a foreign country. He also hoped to show that he could acquit himself well on the world stage, something that is a clear strength of Mrs. Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator and first lady.
After the article was published online, it was widely panned by reporters who said that its author had “apparently watched a completely different immigration speech” and produced a “systematic failure.”
Following the criticism, heavy edits were made to the article without acknowledgment of the changes, including deleting the claim that the speech constituted a “sharp turnaround” from his previous rhetoric and added discussion of Trump’s failure to clarify his position on a variety of immigration-related issues. Additions included:
Yet the juxtaposition of Mr. Trump’s dual performances was so jarring that his true vision and intentions on immigration were hard to discern. He displayed an almost unrecognizable demeanor during his afternoon in Mexico, appearing measured and diplomatic, while hours later he took the stage at his campaign rally and denounced illegal immigrants on the whole as a criminally minded and dangerous group that sows terror in communities and commits murders, rapes and other heinous violence.
Mr. Trump also fervently tried to depict himself as an ally of average workers, saying their economic interests were far more important than the needs of undocumented workers. But he left unclear what would happen to those millions of illegal immigrants, saying only that “the appropriate disposition of those individuals” will take place at some future date after the criminals are deported and his border wall is built.
By contrast, a Times editorial published online the same day criticized Trump’s speech and immigration proposals as “empty words strung together and repeated,” “brutally simple,” and “reverie of immigrant-fearing, police state bluster”:
It’s ridiculous that Donald Trump’s immigration proposals — not so much a policy as empty words strung together and repeated — should have propelled him as far as they have. This confounding situation hit peak absurdity on Wednesday.
It started with Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, in Mexico City. It was surreal because Mr. Trump has spent his entire campaign painting Mexico as a nation of rapists, drug smugglers and trade hustlers who would have to pay for the 2,000-mile border wall that Mr. Trump was going to build. But instead of chastising Mr. Trump, Mr. Peña Nieto treated him like a visiting head of state at a news conference, with side-by-side lecterns and words of deferential mush.
In a strident speech given over a steady roar of cheers, he restated his brutally simple message: Criminal aliens were roaming our streets by the millions, killing Americans and stealing our jobs, and he’d kick them all out with a new “deportation force,” build the wall and make America safe again.
The speech was a reverie of immigrant-fearing, police-state bluster, with Mr. Trump gushing about building “an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall,” assailing “media elites” and listing his various notions for thwarting evil foreigners. He said the immigration force might deport Hillary Clinton.
UPDATE: On September 1, The New York Times’ public editor wrote a response to the criticism, admitting that “mistakes” were made, and recognizing that “many other major news sites managed to hit the mark.”