Part 4—The facts, they may be a-changin’: What kind of journalism has the New York Times been performing?
Before we compare the paper to Rolling Stone, let’s review its recent “bombshell report” about that scary Cold War deal.
Back in 2010, the Obama administration did in fact reach a uranium deal with Vladimir Putin, a well-known evildoer. If you read the Times’ lengthy report, you may find yourself asking these questions:
Question One: Did the uranium deal with Dr. Evil turn out to be a bad deal?
We have no idea. Journalistically speaking, Becker and McIntire work at times to suggest that the deal turned out to bad. But on a journalistic basis, their presentation seems rather slick. They haven’t established the point.
Question Two: Did anyone think the uranium deal was a bad deal at the time?
We have no idea. Journalistically speaking, Becker and McIntire make no real attempt to examine or answer that question. They never report that anyone actually opposed this deal. But on a journalistic basis, they largely avoid this point.
Question Three: How many different federal agencies were involved in approving the uranium deal?
We have no idea. Becker and McIntire’s bombshell report was crammed with irrelevant filler material, often of a scary nature. But despite the length of their bombshell report, they never give a specific answer to that basic question.
In paragraph 38, they did explain that at least seven cabinet departments were involved in approving the deal. Despite the massive length of their report, they never got around to reporting the actual number.
Question Four: Did Hillary Clinton play any role in approving the bad, scary deal?
We have no idea. Certainly, Becker and McIntire never report that she did. If you read all the way to paragraph 67, they even quote an assistant secretary of state, Jose Fernandez, who seems to say that she didn’t.
They don’t establish the point either way. Plainly, they never found anyone in any of those cabinet-level departments who actually said that she was involved. Journalistically speaking, we’d say they largely avoid this point. On a journalistic basis, we’d call it slippery work.
On a journalistic basis, the withholding of Fernandez’s statement until paragraph 67 strikes us as an offense. As a matter of basic fairness, this statement should have appeared nearer the start of the piece, in the one paragraph (paragraph 11!) where the Times let the Clinton campaign say that the coming insinuations were a big pile of crap.
That said, it would have queered the bombshell report to put Fernandez’s statement up front. Here’s why we say that:
On a journalistic basis, Becker and McIntire have composed a novelized “tale” (their word). As a literary genre, it’s a scary Cold War tale, complete with frightening moves by the Russians and Chinese and an array of villains.
By insinuation, Hillary Clinton is the chief villain of the piece. By insinuation, she approved a scary uranium deal in return for big piles of cash. It would be hard to sustain that tale if readers were told, right up front, that the Times reporters don’t even know if Clinton took part in approving the deal at all. Or if readers were told that no one at any other agency thought it was a bad deal.
Presumably, this explains why Becker and McIntire slither past these basic issues in their endless “report.” Journalistically, their conduct strikes us as slippery. At times, it has made us think of Rolling Stone, the pseudo-journalistic magazine which provided a recent service.
What service did Rolling Stone provide in its recent astoundingly bungled report? It helped us see that our “journalists,” at the highest levels, will engage in ludicrous kinds of behavior—behavior which bordered on crazy in the case of the Stone.
They didn’t check even the most basic facts in their pursuit of a ripping good story. This brings us to one of the ways the Times’ latest piece made us think of the Stone.
We refer to the Times’ attempt to establish Frank Giustra as one of the villains of their tale. In particular, we refer to their claim about the jet plane.
Who the heck is Frank Giustra? According to the leading authority on his life, he’s a “Canadian business executive who has been particularly successful in the mining and filmmaking industries and is a noted philanthropist.”
Giustra is quite rich. At the same time, is it possible that he’s a genuine philanthropist with genuine progressive values?
Last week, Giustra issued a statement in response to the bombshell report. He criticized various aspects of the Times’ reporting. He also seemed to describe his own values.
We found his statement rather convincing, almost refreshing. This is part of what the international villain said:
GIUSTRA (4/23/15): I hope that the U.S. media can start to focus on the real challenges of the world and U.S. society. Focus on poverty, homelessness, infrastructure, health care, education, or fractious world politics. You are a great country. Don’t ruin it by letting those with political agendas take over your newspapers and your airwaves.Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. media focusing on “the real challenges of the world,” especially those listed by Giustra. That said, Giustra has pledged to donate half his income to his philanthropic work around the world.
I am extremely proud of the work that we have done at the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Thousands of people, all over the world, have been helped by this initiative. I plan to continue that work long after the harsh glare of this week’s media stories has faded.
Is it possible that his interests are genuine? Not in the New York Times! In the paper’s bombshell report, Giustra was cast as a slippery international magnate working slippery international deals. And the whole thing started with that ride to Almaty on his corrupted jet plane!
As Peter, Paul and Mary sang, Jo and Mike typed this novelized passage. It appeared right at the start of their convoluted, selective and scary frightening Cold War tale:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (4/24/15): The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.Can we talk? It isn’t clear what this has to do with the scary uranium deal of 2010. If you read the Times report with great care, you might have noticed this a few paragraphs later, where it was offered in passing:
The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.
Within days of the visit, Mr. Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.
“Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Giustra...said he sold his stake [in Uranium One] in 2007.”
He said he sold his stake! Apparently, our intrepid reporters didn’t quite fact-check this claim. At any rate, if Giustra left Uranium One in 2007, it isn’t clear how his earlier activities, or his later donations to Clinton Foundation affiliates, played a role in the approval of that deal in 2010.
In 2010, did Hillary Clinton approve a bad uranium deal to help Giustra, her benefactor and briber? Since Giustra had left the company in question three years before, that makes no apparent sense. But this is the kind of confusing piddle that floats by, under the radar, as Jo and Mike join Peter and Paul to sing about that jet plane ride, the one on which Frank and Bill left the land of the decent and flew off to darkest Almaty.
Did Hillary Clinton approve that deal in 2010? As noted, we have no idea. We read the New York Times! But the scary uranium deal in question didn’t benefit Giustra! As a basic (re)reading assignment, try to make sense of the bombshell report as you keep that fact in mind.
That said, another problem seems to lurk in the passage we’ve quoted above. It involves the Times’ repeated claim that Frank and Bill flew to Almaty on that corrupt jet plane.
The Times has made that claim before, in January 2008. It made the claim more dramatically then. It came right at the start of an equally villainous tale.
Except uh-oh! It seems that Frank and Bill didn’t fly to Kazakhstan on that jet plane! Or so Giustra has now declared two separate times, including in last week’s statement.
In 2009, Forbes magazine reported that Giustra was right. For ourselves, we still have no idea, as is routinely the case when one reads the Times.
Does the New York Times check any facts? Certainly, Rolling Stone didn’t.
Does anyone care if the Times bungles facts? The evidence of the past seven days says that no one does!
In 2009, the Times original claim about the jet plane was debunked. But last week, there it was again—and in the week which has passed, the rest of the American press has politely averted its gaze.
This morning, as we read the Times, the facts, it seemed they may be a-changin’! But no one cares about actual facts, as we have told you for years.
What kind of person is Frank Giustra? Is it possible that he’s sincere in his description of his values and his intentions?
Is he doing good things all over the world? If so, would anyone at the New York Times know how to notice or care?
The Times doesn’t deal with such questions! Much more often, the Times presents selective novelized tales peopled with prearranged very bad villains.
They told quite a tale in 2008. Tomorrow, we’ll jet back to that.
Tomorrow: The exact same kind of “reporting”
Still coming: Chris Hayes pimps the bombshell report