WNYC ruled by Zernike: Last Friday morning, Kate Zernike wrote a report for the New York Times about the Mastro report.
As we noted yesterday, Zernike started like this:
ZERNIKE (3/28/14): She “seemed emotional.” She was “habitually concerned about how she was perceived by the governor.” A boyfriend had ended a relationship.As we noted yesterday, Kelly is not portrayed “weeping frequently” in the Mastro report. In fact, she isn’t shown weeping at all.
Bridget Anne Kelly has been the center of blame in the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal since early January, when it was revealed that she sent an email calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Gov. Chris Christie, seeking to stanch the damage the scandal had caused to his political fortunes, fired her as his deputy chief of staff after that, calling her “stupid.” But the report commissioned by Mr. Christie and released Thursday doubles down on a strategy of portraying Ms. Kelly as duplicitous, weeping frequently and dependent on men for approval and stability.
That statement by Zernike was just flatly false.
Today, though, we want to focus on Zernike’s opening line. And we want to think about how influential the New York Times can be.
Does the Mastro report say that Kelly “seemed emotional?” It’s hard to know how to answer. At one point in the 340-page report, one co-worker says that Kelly “seemed emotional” on one occasion in December 2013. But that is the total extent of the matter.
One co-worker makes that comment, describing Kelly on one occasion. The word “emotional” is applied to Kelly nowhere else in the lengthy Mastro report.
By way of contrast, there are six passages in the Mastro report where Christie is said to have behaved in an “emotional” way. To review all these passages, just click here.
On one occasion, one co-worker said Kelly “seemed emotional.” But Zernike had a theme she wanted to push, so she started with that one remark, completely stripped of context.
That was terrible journalism; it never should have been published. But at WNYC News, it may have been influential.
WNYC, an NPR affiliate, has done some good reporting about the Fort Lee matter. But when Sarah Gonzalez discussed the Mastro report a bit later last Friday, this is the way she started:
GONZALEZ (3/28/14): The internal review into Bridgegate by Gov. Chris Christie's lawyers is being criticized as sexist for focusing on a romantic relationship of Christie former aide, Bridget Anne Kelly.Did the governor’s legal team really call Kelly “emotional?” Plainly, we would say no. But pleasing claims can easily spread, no matter how misleading they may be.
Kelly sent the infamous email: “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
The governor's legal team called her "emotional" and asserted she used bad judgment because she was upset about a break-up with Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
That piece by Zernike was horrible work, executed on a high platform. By the way:
Back in January, did Christie really call Kelly “stupid,” as Zernike says in the passage we’ve posted above?
Once again, we’d have to say no, unless we’re simply writing a novel. But that became a popular claim in January, along with the pleasing claim that Christie called Kelly a “liar.”
As Moses said to God the Father when he played golf with the Holy Trinity:
Are we here to play some golf? Or are we just [blank]ing around?
(Hat tip to Paul Reiser)
The way we remember the joke: Moses has been in Heaven for what seems like a very long time. Finally, the big day comes: T
he Holy Trinity invite him for golf. They want him to round out a foursome.
Needless to say, God the Father has the honors. Jesus and the Holy Spirit tee off next.
Moses watches as they hit a succession of Biblically-themed, trick-shot holes-in-one. [The joke teller can describe these shots as he or she wishes.]
Moses gets more and more annoyed as he watches the trick shots. After the Dove of Peace takes the Holy Spirit’s ball in his mouth and drops it neatly into the cup, he can’t hold himself back any longer.
“Are we here to play golf?” he asks. “Or are we just [blank]ing around?”
A person might have that same reaction to Zernike’s tortured report. Twelve years ago, we recalled that joke after weeks of reading Ann Coulter.