Patrick Healy | Media Matters for America

Patrick Healy

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  • NY Times election coverage in 2018 and 2020 will be as bad as it was in 2016

    New politics editor Patrick Healy epitomizes the worst of the paper's presidential campaign reporting

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In a foreboding sign for New York Times readers, the paper has named one of the pillars of its 2016 campaign coverage to oversee its political coverage leading into the crucial 2018 and 2020 elections. The paper drew criticism during and following the 2016 presidential campaign for too often providing false equivalence between the candidates and focusing on the politics of personality rather than policy.

    The Times editors announced Patrick Healy as the paper’s new politics editor in a March 5 memo. He will be responsible for “building a team for the midterms and the looming 2020 presidential election” in order to cover the “epic battle” ahead.

    At the Times, Healy has alternated between political reporting -- including extensive coverage of Hillary Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns -- and stints on the paper’s culture desk. His resume includes drawing false equivalencies between Clinton and Donald Trump, obsessively fixating on Hillary and Bill Clinton’s relationship, and coining the sexist term “the Clinton Cackle” to describe Hillary Clinton’s laugh.

    I know what you’re thinking. Media Matters is criticizing the Times for its coverage of Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election again. Yes, we are. And it annoys me too.

    We extensively chronicled the inaccurate, sexist, gossipy, and disproportionate criticism that journalists at major news outlets, particularly at the Times, provided Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. At times, that work drew groans and sneers from those who viewed us as Clinton shills.

    But toward the end of the campaign, other journalists and pundits began pointing out deep flaws in the coverage of the race. And in the months since Trump was elected, researchers published studies at Harvard University and Columbia Journalism Review that detailed how excessive coverage by the Times and other outlets of relatively minor issues surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server created a false impression that those issues were equivalent to Trump’s panoply of scandals, while also drowning out discussion of policy differences between the candidates.

    Meanwhile, as women came forward alleging sexual misconduct by leading lights of political journalism, a new conversation began about how sexism in journalism impacted coverage of Clinton during the election.

    Frankly, I’d love nothing more than not to revisit the media’s coverage of the 2016 election. The Clinton era in American politics is over (Hannity's nightly show aside), and I’d just as soon move on to covering new topics. But it's impossible to do so when the newspaper of record remains convinced that it did nothing wrong during that campaign, setting itself up to repeat the same mistakes.

    The paper’s editors “seem to resist the very idea that they have anything to re-examine in their approach to the 2016 campaign,” The Atlantic’s James Fallows wrote in September. Other Times moves since the election indicate that the paper’s leaders are concerned only with criticism from conservatives.

    The promotion of Healy -- whose political reporting at the paper has revolved around Clinton -- suggests that the paper is completely comfortable with its coverage of the 2016 election and its treatment of the former secretary of state.

    A review of Healy’s work reveals evidence of nearly every criticism one can imagine being made of the Times’ coverage.

    False equivalence? Read Healy’s contributions to the Timesobsessive coverage of Clinton’s email server in the waning days of the campaign. “In just six days,” two researchers wrote in Columbia Journalism Review after reviewing the paper’s coverage, “The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.”

    Casual sexism? Healy started a media whirlwind when he launched the term “the Clinton Cackle” with an over 900-word account on her laugh, writing that Clinton appeared to deploy her chuckle in a “particularly calculated” manner. By coining a “pretty damn gender-specific” term, journalist Rachel Sklar wrote, Healy had produced “a hit piece masquerading as analysis.”

    Gossipy trash? Check out Healy’s 2,000-word investigation (for which he spoke to “some 50 people”) into how many days the Clintons spent together over a 17-month period, complete with a reference to a “tabloid photograph” Healy suggested pointed to a Bill Clinton affair. Healy later acknowledged that the amount of time they spend together is “pretty similar” to that of other congressional families. And the Times public editor wrote that the part of the story referencing the tabloid photo belonged “in the trash can.”

    Favorable misreading of Trump? Healy’s widely-panned (and subsequently rewritten) report presented a Trump speech in Mexico as “an audacious attempt ... to remake his image on the divisive issue of immigration,” leading the paper’s public editor to investigate why so many readers thought the piece “looked like a significant misportrayal of events.”

    Bizarre optics obsession? Peruse Healy’s take on Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. The paper’s public editor criticized Healy’s piece for its “jarring, sexualized top” in an article titled “A Convention Speech, Not a Bodice Ripper.”

    Banal “both-sides” reporting? Try his story on the candidates’ transparency around health records. Its premise was that both “have been more secretive and selective than many recent presidential nominees in providing up-to-date details about their personal health,” even though the piece acknowledged Clinton had provided significantly more information.

    Focus on personality over policy? Columbia Journalism Review literally described one Healy piece as “so high school.”

    Stenography? Healy’s most recent piece on Trump featured him calling the then-president elect, asking his reaction to actor Meryl Streep’s criticism for mocking a Times reporter’s disability, then writing up Trump’s denial rather than pointing out Trump was lying.

    I could go on and on. And apparently I have to, because the Times is woefully uninterested in interrogating where its coverage has gone wrong in the past and trying to improve it as the 2018 congressional race moves forward and the 2020 presidential elections loom.

  • Obamacare Repeal And The Myth Of Trump As The "Great Negotiator"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before House Republicans and President Donald Trump were forced to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their ill-fated first attempt to gut health care reform and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), media repeatedly trumpeted Trump's supposed ability to get the bill passed because of his mastery of the "Art of the Deal." Here's a look back at how they described the "great negotiator," which was "the whole point of Trump":

  • Meryl Streep, Trump’s Attack On A Reporter’s Disability, And Reality

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    On November 25, 2015, during a speech before thousands of supporters in South Carolina, Donald Trump mocked the disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.

    This is not a controversial statement, or one up for debate. It is a reflection of reality.

    Here’s the video. The despicable attack came as Trump was attempting to rebut Kovaleski’s work debunking Trump’s false claim that he saw “thousands” of Americans cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center. You can see Trump holding his right hand at an angle while flailing about in cruel mimicry of Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints.

    Following criticism of his vicious attack on Kovaleski, Trump claimed he had not been mocking the reporter’s disability. He lied. Part of his defense was that he had never met Kovaleski and didn’t know what he looked like. That was false. Here’s PolitiFact’s ruling that his denials were false. Here’s The Washington Post FactChecker’s.

    This is not in question. So why is The New York Times itself helping Trump redefine reality?

    During a speech at The Golden Globes on Sunday, Meryl Streep criticized the “instinct to humiliate” on display during Trump’s attack on Kovaleski. The Times’ Patrick Healy called Trump up for his reaction, then authored an article depicting the exchange as a she said/he said: Streep had called attention to a speech in which Trump was “seeming to mock” its reporter and Trump had “flatly denied” the claim.

    The Times knows better. When Trump first attacked Kovaleski in July 2015, the paper responded, “We’re outraged that he would ridicule the physical appearance of one of our reporters.”

    This is what Trump and his allies do. When Trump says something that exposes a real vulnerability, they outright lie about what he said and why. Trump lies habitually, so unwinding the rationale behind any particular falsehood is difficult. But the result is a news environment in which facts become unstable, reality is constantly under attack, and both journalists and news consumers are unable to process new information within a coherent collective framework.

    If the paper of record won’t stand up for the truth about an attack on one of its own reporters, I have to question whether the Times will be able to do so regarding key issues of policy and politics. And that’s a real concern as the next administration unfolds.

  • New York Times’ Widely Panned Review Of Trump’s Immigration-Focused Day Receives Heavy Edits After Publishing

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    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.”

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Conventional Wisdom And Bill Clinton

    The Beltway Narrative Shifts, And Suddenly Clinton Is Old And Out Of Touch

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Bill ClintonYou can watch the Beltway media's narrative shift before your eyes, as reporters get bored with the story they've been telling and move on to something counterintuitive and new. Journalists want to tell stories, not just report facts, and the stories they choose to tell based on cherry-picked examples are often bad for progressives.

    Old conventional wisdom: Bill Clinton is the greatest politician of his generation, with a unique ability to inspire audiences in his speeches.

    New conventional wisdom: Bill Clinton is old, tired, and should hang it up.

    Patrick Healy kicked off the change with a 1,400-word January 28 New York Times trend piece that cited a Clinton speech Healy attended in Iowa the previous night, a speech his colleague attended in Las Vegas last week, and the opinions of a handful of observers as evidence that "the old magic seems to be missing." (Other journalists who saw those same speeches came away with dramatically different interpretations of Clinton's performance; Healy wrote a similar piece last March.)

    Now Mark Halperin, a key bellwether for Beltway insider journalists, has picked up the narrative. During today's edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, he called Healy's story "pretty accurate." Halperin said that he had seen Clinton at an event yesterday and that while the former president's "best moments are great," he was "not his best," with "a little bit of a rambling quality to his presentation." "I thought he was better in New Hampshire when I saw him last week," Halperin added.

    Indeed. After that January 20 speech in New Hampshire, Halperin said on Morning Joe that Clinton had been "as good as I've seen him in years in driving a message." He also issued a stream of tweets describing the event as a "#ClintonClassic."

    Just before the speech he attended yesterday, Halperin was calling Clinton "The Master."

    Somehow, one speech and one Times article later, the narrative has shifted dramatically.

  • Media Return To Deriding Hillary Clinton's Laugh

    "The Cackle," "A Record Scratch," And Other Tired Attacks From The Debate

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Clinton and Sanders at the October 13 debate

    Multiple media figures derided Hillary Clinton's laugh during the first Democratic presidential debate, calling it a "cackle" and "a record scratch." During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton's laughter was repeatedly attacked, despite criticism that such attacks were rooted in sexism.

    During the October 13 CNN debate in Las Vegas, Clinton laughed after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended her from repeated questions about her use of private email by criticizing the media for fixating on the issue and saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Clinton and Sanders shook hands as the crowd applauded.

    The moment has been described by several outlets as a highlight of the night.  

    But several media figures initially focused on Clinton's laugh. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted, "oh god the Clinton laugh is out," while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "THE CLINTON LAUGH," and Fox's Sean Hannity tweeted "Omg that laugh."

    Several conservative media figures took it further, calling it a "cackle":

    Attacking Clinton's laughter was a common theme during the Democratic primary before the 2008 election. In September 2007, after Clinton appeared on several Sunday political talk shows and laughed in response to some questions, media figures spent weeks debating and mocking her laughter. Fox News led the charge, with Bill O'Reilly even discussing Clinton's laughter with a "body language expert" who deemed it "evil," and Sean Hannity calling the laugh "frightening."

    The mainstream press picked up on the attacks on Clinton's laugh, with New York Times political reporter Patrick Healy writing an article with the headline "Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign," in which he described Clinton's "hearty belly laugh" as "The Cackle," calling it "heavily caffeinated" and suggesting it may have been "programmed."

    Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith also described Clinton's laugh as her "signature cackle," while Politico correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh "sounded like it was programmed by computer."

    And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has a long history of nasty attacks on Clinton, claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a "hellish housewife" and a "nag" and more like a "wag":

    As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won't stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."

    That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.

    The list goes on: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, CNN's Jeanne Moos, and others all debated or derided Clinton's laughter during Clinton's first run for president.

    Politico's Allen said on MSNBC during all of this that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. Other outlets agreed; Jezebel called out Matthews for his "cackle" criticism and other derisive remarks, asking, "can we agree that no matter what your political allegiances, this is not the way you speak of a woman -- whether she is a senator or not?" Rachel Sklar, writing in the Huffington Post, said at the time "I keep finding sexist Hillary Clinton bashing everywhere I turn," noting that criticisms of the candidate's laughter "turn completely on the fact that she's a woman. 'The Cackle?' So would never be applied to a man. We all know it."

    Unfortunately, the criticism hasn't stopped in the intervening seven years. The Washington Free Beacon has a "Hillary Laugh Button" permanently on its site. The National Journal published in June 2014, many months prior to Clinton declaring her second bid for president, a "Comprehensive Supercut of Hillary Clinton Laughing Awkwardly With Reporters." And conservative tweet-aggregator Twitchy in August mocked "scary as hell" pens which featured "Clinton's cackling head." 

  • NY Times' Healy claimed Clinton's use of "pueda" didn't make sense -- but she got only the tense wrong


    In a blog post, New York Times reporter Patrick Healy wrote that as Spanish-speaking voters chanted "Si se puede" at a rally in California, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton "bellowed into her microphone, 'Si se pueda is right!' " Healy added, "Several colleagues who speak better Spanish than I do say that 'pueda' (as opposed to 'puede') has meaning in other contexts, but it does not really make sense in this one." In fact, Clinton used the correct verb but the wrong tense.

  • NY Times reported Rove claims about Clinton's votes on surveillance without noting they are false


    In writing about Karl Rove's August 15 appearance on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, New York Times reporter Patrick Healy reported that Rove claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton "opposed the USA Patriot Act, domestic surveillance programs and other antiterrorism measures." The Times did not note that Clinton, in fact, voted for both the original USA Patriot Act in 2001 and its reauthorization in 2006. Healy also misrepresented what Rove actually said when he falsely accused Clinton of opposing certain changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.