NY Times gives credence to GOP stunt during impeachment hearings

Rep. Elisa Stefanik (R-NY) attempted to break House Intelligence Committee rules during the November 15 impeachment inquiry hearing by trying to ask questions during time allotted for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and the minority counsel, and then she and Nunes balked when she was halted. The New York Times wrote up the ordeal but framed Stefanik as a “G.O.P. star” and buried the crucial detail that she was violating the rules.

When Stefanik spoke up during the hearing, Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) gaveled her down, to which she responded, “What is the interruption for this time?” Schiff explained that Nunes could only use his 45-minute period for questioning of his own or yield to the minority counsel, while Stefanik would be allowed five minutes of questioning later along with other junior committee members. Stefanik huffed, “This is the fifth time you have interrupted members of Congress, duly elected members of Congress.” Nunes objected that Schiff was “gagging the young lady from New York.”

Nunes and Stefanik then used the opportunity to falsely insist that Schiff was nefariously silencing Republican members of Congress. Right-wing media went along with the Republican spin that Schiff was “‘gagging’ the gentlewoman.”

The New York Times wrote up the stunt and the attention it drew, framing Stefanik as a “G.O.P. star” -- an apparent nod to President Donald Trump’s tweet claiming that “a new Republican star is born.” The Times did not note that Stefanik was breaking House rules until the 17th paragraph, where the paper treated the fact as a matter of opinion, claiming, “Others noted that the resolution setting up ground rules for the hearings passed by the House supported Mr. Schiff’s actions.”

Considering the potential political damage that public impeachment inquiry hearings are doing to the president of the United States and the Republican Party, it should be expected that Republicans in Congress will respond with stunts to distract the public. But the media have a duty to explain any such maneuver and focus on the facts of the case -- not partisan spin.