New York Times reporter promotes glowing portrayal of GOP candidate J.D. Vance as a “nightmare” for Democrats
Jonathan Weisman left out any mention of Vance’s ties to billionaire Peter Thiel while sanding down the sharp corners of the candidate’s biography
New York Times congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman is in hot water again following a tweet promoting his most recent dispatch in the Times that read like a press release on behalf of Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance's campaign.
Weisman co-authored an article Wednesday on the Senate race in Ohio, purporting to provide a preview of the general election between Republican author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. The article described Vance as “heavily favored” going into the midterm elections in a state that election analysts no longer consider a “swing state.” The article explained how the state's rural areas have swung heavily toward Republicans in recent years, and it posited that a Democratic path to victory would have to go through the state's growing suburban areas. (The state’s urban areas were largely overlooked.)
Any trace of nuance crafted into the article, co-authored by Times national politics reporter Jazmine Ulloa, was completely lost when Weisman promoted it on Twitter. Weisman’s tweet on Thursday seemed like it could have come straight out of Vance’s own public relations office. He positioned the Republican hopeful as being a “nightmare” to Democrats who could deftly promote himself as “a boot-strapped hard-scrabble Appalachian to blue-collar voters” and as “a Yale-educated businessman to suburbanites.” Weisman never addressed why Tim Ryan, a former local football star with his own humble upbringing and New England law degree, would not be a similar “nightmare” for Republicans. (Ryan was also actually born and raised in Appalachia, unlike Vance, who is from Middletown, Ohio.)
Weisman’s promotion of Vance comes across as especially tone-deaf considering that his own paper had published a separate article on Wednesday, titled “Tucker, Thiel and Trump: How J.D. Vance Won in Ohio,” outlining that Vance had benefited from $15 million of super PAC spending promoting his candidacy funded by Trump-aligned tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Weisman’s article did not include any of this further information.
The connections between Vance and Thiel also got considerable coverage this week in Politico — an outlet that is often friendly to Republican positioning on issues and candidates. For example, Thursday’s edition of Politico’s Playbook newsletter pointed out Vance’s potential weaknesses, including his time at an elite law firm with offices in Washington, D.C. The newsletter examined how the firm’s work for opioids producers like Purdue Pharma and at least two Chinese corporations contrasts with Vance’s campaign positions, and it also pointed out that Vance’s self-portrait as a working class Ohioan is undercut by his ownership of a $1.4 million mansion in Cincinnati and another home in Washington, D.C., which has previously served as his primary residence.
Even though all this information is easily available, Weisman still described Vance as a “nightmare” opponent for Democrats.
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent seemed to call out Weisman’s glowing portrayal of Vance and noted how such a narrative utterly ignores both Vance’s and Thiel’s contempt for democracy:
Weisman has previously downplayed the ongoing Republican threat to democracy as just “politics as usual.” He also attracted widespread condemnation (and a demotion in his position at the Times) three years ago, when he publicly questioned whether several nonwhite Democratic members of Congress from urban and heavily minority districts in the Midwest and Deep South really represented those regions.
In short, Weisman’s track record at the Times is a perfect match for every narrative that demagogues like Vance and Thiel want to advance.