Part 2—Chris Hayes and the Clinton rules: Do you believe in a journalistic phenomenon known as “the Clinton rules?”
If you do, conditions were ripe for a full-blown debate on the Thursday, April 23 Chris Hayes program.
That morning, the New York Times had posted a 4400-word report which seemed to suggest that Hillary Clinton had sold out the national interest in a scary uranium deal.
On Friday, April 24, the sprawling report would appear in the hard-copy Times. It would start at the top of the paper’s front page and fully consume two interior pages.
Let’s return to that Thursday morning, when the sprawling report suddenly appeared on line. In an instant reaction, the Morning Joe team staged a skillful parody of modern pseudo-journalism.
Openly acknowledging that they hadn’t read the Times report, Joe and Mika and the rest of the gang speculated about what the report must surely mean about the very bad conduct of Hillary Clinton. In a very unusual bit of behavior, Howard Dean pushed back against their recitations, setting the stage for a full-blown debate about the New York Times and the so-called “Clinton rules:”
DEAN (4/23/15): First of all, I haven’t seen the story and neither have you, right?...I will say, there is an epidemic of really sloppy reporting that goes from the top to the bottom...I’d like to see what all the facts are here, because so far we haven’t really seen—Is Dean allowed to say such things about the glorious Times?
SCARBOROUGH: Why don’t you read the story before accusing the New York Times of being sloppy?
DEAN: Because in general, the New York Times has been sloppy, particularly their political writers. I use the New York Times as an example in journalism classes, because by the fifth paragraph in any political story—we can probably find one right here, whatever the political story on the front page is. By the fifth paragraph, they’re substituting their judgment for news.
The next day, Paul Krugman published a blog post in which he described “the Clinton rules.” Given the history of this journalistic practice, Krugman said we should “be highly suspicious of any reports of supposed scandals unless there’s hard proof rather than mere innuendo.”
Conditions were ripe for a startling debate when Chris Hayes devoted a ten-minute segment to the New York Times’ sprawling report that Thursday night.
That morning, Dean had trashed the work of the Times. The following day, Krugman would review the history of the “Clinton rules.” Now, Hayes would spend ten minutes discussing the Times report.
Do you believe in the Clinton rules? Do you believe that the New York Times has been part of this alleged journalistic syndrome, in which mainstream newspapers wage war on the Clintons (and also on Candidate Gore)?
If so, Hayes had assembled a panel which seemed ideal for a discussion of this problem. The players were these:
Hayes hosts his own show on MSNBC, a corporate news channel which is organized around slavish devotion to the Democratic Party.
Joining him were two other liberal voices: Michelle Goldberg, a liberalish, progressivish writer who had discussed the Times report for The Nation that day. Also, Eric Boehlert, a leading voice at the Clinton-friendly web site, Media Matters.
To watch the full segment, click here.
The stage seemed set for a lively discussion of the alleged “Clinton rules.” And good lord! In the course of the ten-minute segment, Goldberg seemed to have a lot to say about the Times report.
What exactly did the report allege about Hillary Clinton? Fairly early, Goldberg offered this remark:
GOLDBERG (4/23/15): Well, the article doesn’t really allege anything. It hints and implies and it juxtaposes things. But the only clear allegation is about the failure of disclosure...The article doesn’t really allege anything? It hints and implies and it juxtaposes things?
If that is true, we seem to be discussing a large journalistic failure. As a general matter, extremely lengthy news reports aren’t supposed to “hint” and “imply” and “juxtapose things” when discussing major political figures.
Extremely lengthy news reports should make clear statements and allegations. According to Goldberg, the only “clear allegation” in the report concerned an alleged “failure of disclosure” of some kind.
That said, we offer this news flash:
The alleged “failure of disclosure” by the Clinton Foundation is discussed in exactly five paragraphs in the sprawling, 75-paragraph Times report! If we live in a rational world, Goldberg was saying that the lengthy Times report contained almost nothing but hints and insinuations.
In a rational world, Goldberg’s statement about the report would already seem to be damning. Moments later, things got worse as she seemed to describe a strangely bungled fact:
GOLDBERG: There’s a hint of a quid pro quo—Discussing one of the “hints” in the Times report, Goldberg said the Times had repeated a bogus fact—a fact the paper originally bungled back in 2008!
But [the Clinton camp] are right when they say there’s no evidence. And in fact, the evidence of the New York Times story I think is a little bit weaker than it appears.
You know, some of this stuff about Kazakhstan came out in a 2008 story in the New York Times, and then there was a piece in Forbes debunking some of that, particularly the allegation that Clinton had flown in with this, the Canadian mining magnate whose name I’m not going to pronounce correctly, and so—
But in fact, they hadn’t flown in together, at least according to Forbes, which got his flight manifest.
Clinton was flying with Ron Burkle. The mining magnate was already in Kazakhstan...So already, some of the facts, I think, are, like I said, a little bit weaker than the Times presents them.
The bungled fact had been corrected by Forbes. Now, the Times had reported the bungled fact all over again!
In a rational world, this would be puzzling journalistic conduct. For unknown reasons, Goldberg couldn’t quite bring herself to say that the bungled fact was wrong. She merely said the facts were “a little bit weaker than the Times presents them.”
Goldberg had said that the lengthy report dealt mainly in “hints” and insinuations. She also said that a central fact in the lengthy report was weirdly and strangely wrong.
Later in the discussion, Goldberg went for the hat trick, explicitly discussing the so-called “Clinton rules.” During this discussion, she seemed to make remarkable statements about the conduct of the mainstream press corps.
What are the so-called “Clinton rules?” Sounding very much like Krugman, Goldberg said the term refers to “the way journalists consistently kind of throw out normal evidentiary standards in going after the Clintons.”
Already, that was quite an assertion. Moments later, she made the following statement, in which she seemed to describe gross journalistic misconduct:
GOLDBERG: There is this kind of long-standing journalistic vendetta against the Clintons that kind of allows people to exaggerate and follow these sort of right-wing conspiracy theories down all sorts of rabbit holes and blind alleys, to mix metaphors.Really? “There is this kind of long-standing journalistic vendetta against the Clintons?” As part of this long-standing vendetta, journalists “follow these sort of right-wing conspiracy theories down all sorts of rabbit holes and blind alleys?”
You’d almost think Goldberg was describing shocking journalistic misconduct. In a rational world, you’d think a fiery fellow like Hayes would want to explore such remarkable statements and claims.
If you thought that, you’d have been wrong this particular night. You also would have been clueless about the way the “liberal” end of our press corps has worked over the past several decades.
According to Goldberg, a sprawling New York Times report had been built on “hints” and insinuations. It included at least one weirdly inaccurate fact. It seemed to continue a “long-standing journalistic vendetta” in which newspapers like the Times “follow right-wing conspiracy theories down all sorts of rabbit holes” in pursuit of the Clintons.
Goldberg seemed to be describing astounding journalistic misconduct. But so what? As the discussion unfolded, this is what occurred:
Hayes vouched for the accuracy of the Times report, which he had twice described as “a bombshell report.” “This does seem a legitimate piece of journalism and I don’t think they got anything wrong,” he weirdly said at one point.
Repeatedly, Hayes pushed the discussion toward alleged wrongdoing by the Clintons, not by the New York Times. On two occasions, he pointed to things that “drive him crazy” or “drive him nuts” about the Clintons. He pointed to nothing that bothers him about the Times, or about the “journalistic vendetta” his guest had described.
Repeatedly, Hayes pushed he discussion toward the alleged “failure of disclosure” by the Clintons. Excitedly, he seemed to agree with Goldberg that this was the key part of the Times report.
In adopting this stance, Hayes chose to focus on a meager five paragraphs in the middle of a 75-paragraph report. He chose to avoid the remarkable journalistic failures which suffused the central focus of the Times’ report, which hinted and insinuated that Hillary Clinton had sold out the national interest in exchange for a barrel of cash.
Rather plainly, Goldberg described astounding journalistic misconduct, dating back many years. But Hayes, who is sometimes called The Puppy, was doing what his crowd has done down through these many long years, and Goldberg was happy to follow.
In truth, it was Eric Boehlert against the world as this ten-minute discussion unfolded. In a rational world, Goldberg had described astounding journalistic misconduct—but she and Hayes seemed to know that career players simply can’t go there.
It’s been this way for decades now. Such conduct is a scam.
Our view? Professor Dean should take this program's transcript to those journalism classes. He could show the college kids how “career liberal journalists” have agreed, for many years, to enable the Clinton rules and thwart the national interest.
Tomorrow: Thing that drive Hayes nuts