Supplemental: Ugly episode gets a lot worse!


Nothing like that ever happened, Biden finally says:
Last night, on 60 Minutes, Norah O’Donnell interviewed Vice President Biden about his decision not to run for president.

At this point, there’s little apparent reason to believe the things Biden says. But at one point, a remarkable exchange occurred.

O’Donnell asked about the melodramatic “deathbed” story which got its start in an unsourced, highly novelistic column by Maureen Dowd.

In the story, Biden’s dying son, with his last few nouns, begs Biden to try to keep the Clintons out of the White House. The Clinton-hating melodrama was ugly and over the top even by the standards established by Dowd down through these many long years.

Last night, O’Donnell asked Biden about this widely-repeated story. “Nothing like that ever, ever happened,” Biden said.

Below, you see the entire exchange. In our view, O’Donnell left several questions unasked:
O’DONNELL (10/25/15): There was a lot you had to weigh in this run for president. I know you talked to your son, Beau, about running for president. What did he want you to do?

BIDEN: Well, first thing I'd like to do, and you're being very polite the way you're asking me the question. Because some people have written that, you know, Beau on his deathbed said, “Dad, you've got to run,” and there was this sort of Hollywood moment that, you know, nothing like that ever, ever happened.

Beau from the time he was in his 30s, or actually his late 20s, was my—he and Hunter were one of my two most reliable advisers. And Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win.

But there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing, that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, “Dad, you’ve got to run, like, win one for the Gipper.” It wasn’t anything like that.
Nothing like that ever, ever happened? It wasn’t anything like that? This extends and complicates an episode which is truly disgraceful, even by the garbage can journalistic standards of Dowd and the New York Times.

Let’s start with a basic point. We can’t assume that Biden’s statement to O’Donnell is accurate. He is now contradicting a story he left uncorrected for almost three months. No one can say, with perfect certainty, what the ultimate truth is.

Still, Biden is contradicting a highly dramatic claim by the Times’ most famous columnist. In a standard bit of professional courtesy, O’Donnell failed to mention Dowd’s name on the program last night.

Howe bizarre is the New York Times? Matters quickly got worse at Dowd’s horrible newspaper when her column appeared. On that same day—in that same Sunday edition—the Times ran a front-page news report by the always ludicrous Amy Chozick.

Chozick took Dowd’s unsourced claims and used them as the source for the account shown below. In this strange way, Dowd’s unsourced claims were instantly put to use in a front-page news report:
CHOZICK (8/2/15): On Saturday, the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that Mr. Biden had been holding meetings at his residence, “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” to challenge Mrs. Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states.

One longtime Biden supporter said the vice president had been deeply moved by his son’s desire for him to run.

“He was so close to Beau and it was so heartbreaking that, frankly, I thought initially he wouldn't have the heart,” the supporter, Michael Thornton, a Boston lawyer, said in an interview. “But I've had indications that maybe he does want to—and ‘that’s what Beau would have wanted me to do.’ ”


Ms. Dowd reported that as Beau Biden lay dying from brain cancer, he ''tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.” Mr. Biden's other son, Hunter, also encouraged him to run, she wrote.
“That’s what Beau would have wanted me to do?” Was that supposed to be a quote by Vice President Biden?

As usual, there was no way to tell from Chozick’s slippery journalistic technique, which typifies the way the Times covers domestic politics.

At any rate:

“Nothing like that ever happened,” Biden said last night. But how strange! In the August 2 New York Times, it happened twice, in two separate places—in Dowd’s column in the Sunday Review and in Chozick’s news report on the paper’s front page.

“Nothing like that ever, ever happened?” The problems continue from there. Let’s count the authors of these problems, starting with O’Donnell:

First, O’Donnell failed to ask Biden if he had been the source for Dowd’s column. Presumably, he would have said no—but Politico made that claim on October 6, citing “multiple sources.”

O’Donnell failed to ask a second question. If nothing like that ever happened, why did Biden leave the story unchallenged over the past three months?

Why did Biden let the widely-repeated story go uncorrected? At this point, let’s note the specific part of Dowd’s story which made it so appalling.

Weeks before Dowd’s column appeared, the Wall Street Journal had reported that Biden’s son had urged him to run for president. There was nothing newsworthy about that report. It produced zero buzz.

Dowd massively amped the story by injecting it with classic Clinton-hatred. When she banged the drum slowly in the manner shown here, the low-interest story took off:
DOWD (8/2/15): When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk.

“Of course, honey,” the vice president replied.

At the table, Beau told his dad he was worried about him.

My kid’s dying, an anguished Joe Biden thought to himself, and he’s making sure I’m O.K.

“Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money,” Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.

Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.

Hunter also pushed his father, telling him, “Dad, it’s who you are.”
With his last few nouns, the dying man rose from his bed to trash the Clintons one last time! By now, he could barely speak, but he was still valiantly trying to keep them out of the White House!

After Dowd injected the story with this trademark venom, the moribund story took off. “Nothing like that ever happened,” Biden has now finally said, revealing a rather large hole in his own basic character.

Let’s state the obvious! It was the dying man's attack on the Clintons which made this story take off. But in two otherwise useful blog posts about Biden’s denial, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple seems to be playing a bit dumb today about that obvious fact.

Far worse, so is Dean Baquet, the New York Times’ executive editor. Is Baquet even minimally competent? If so, he was being baldly dishonest in this presentation to Wemple, who sought comment from the Times about what Biden said:
WEMPLE (10/26/15): Columnist Maureen Dowd wasn’t alone in her now-disputed reporting on Vice President Biden’s considerations regarding a 2016 presidential run, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told the Erik Wemple Blog today. “I know that the vice president is now saying this wasn’t true, but if you look at coverage, every news organization in America had sources close to him describing this,” said Baquet.
Simply put, Baquet is being dishonest. No one but the New York Times reported this story the way Dowd did. Once Dowd injected the story with venom, other journalists stood in line to repeat the lurid tale.

No one had sources close to Biden describing what Dowd described. They all stampeded off to use the grisly Dowd as their source. Surely, the great Baquet must know that. He’s just dissembling again.

People like O’Donnell and Wemple will be inclined to tiptoe around this matter in various ways. Other figures will try to avoid this event altogether.

Dowd is powerful, as is the Times. Among journalists who play for pay, a code of silence has surrounded such conduct for the past twenty-five years. The liberal world has accepted this conduct, and this code, every step of the way.

That said, several obvious questions have arisen again:

On what basis did the Times allow Dowd to publish her unsourced, lurid story? On what basis did the Times allow Chozick to use Dowd’s unsourced column as the source for a front-page news report?

Biden has now said that it never, ever happened! Now more than ever, real journalists would insist that the Times explain what occurred.

We have few real journalists. What we have instead is a gang of hustlers, grabbers and clowns, including quite a few who get sold to us as “liberals.”

We also have a possible hint about the source for Dowd’s tale, if we assume she had a source at all:

During last night’s interview, O’Donnell waited until Jill Biden had “stepped out” of the room to ask Joe Biden about this matter. After Jill Biden left the room, this was her very next question.

Did Dowd actually have a source? If she did, our money’s still on Hunter Biden. But watching last night’s sequence, we dreamed up another contender.

Who will insist that the Times explain? Don’t bet on Jonathan Alter!


  1. I have written my letter to the NY Times asking these important questions about Dowd and Chozick's work. I suggest others do the same.

  2. Bob -- An addendum:

  3. Simply put, Baquet is being dishonest.

    Yes, but don't worry. The Public Editor will get right on it.


  4. mm, as you probably know, the Times' public editor is not permitted to comment about stuff on the op-ed pages.

  5. Hey, David, is that true? I thought a public editor's job was to address questions of journalistic integrity. I didn't know that this is limited to news stories. As a matter of fact, in 2008 NYT public editor Clark Hoyt called Maureen Dowd out for the "gender-heavy terms" in her columns concerning candidate Clinton.

    At any rate, even if Margaret Sullivan can't address op-ed fabrications, she can still address reporter Amy Chozick's front page story.

  6. Anon 5:46 - I write to the public editor from time to time. IIRC I've been told by the public editor's office that public editor commentary is limited to news stories. However, your example of Clark Hoyt criticizing Dowd would seem to contradict my memory, so now I'm not certain.

    The Times' description of PE duties doesn't specifically say that PE commentary is limited to news stories.

    ...writes about the Times and its journalism....The public editor’s office also handles questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity.

    1. Chozick's use of Dowd's unsourced conversation occurred in a news story.

    2. Cool. DinC is now defending the NY Times. What's the world coming to!

    3. I surely didn't mean to defend the NY Times. All I meant to do was figure out whether or not their public editor is permitted to criticize portions other than the news pages.

      I consider it a criticism that (I think) they don't let the public editor criticize areas other than the news pages. The op-ed pages, in particular, tend to be weak and not infrequently has errors.

  7. Libs get indignant when the NYT sets the tone for all U.S. news media only when a story is unflattering to HRC. When The NYT put a phony 2008 story on the front page above the fold about McCain having an affair with lobbyist Vicki Iseman liberals couldn't care less about the story's veracity, only that it benefited the Democratic Party candidates.

    The Public Editor

    "What That McCain Article Didn’t Say"

    Published: February 24, 2008

    "But in the absence of a smoking gun, I asked Keller why he decided to run what he had.

    “If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, we’d have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members,” he replied. “But that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.”

    I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room. A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide.'

    1. The difference is, when this story came out progressives didn't jump on it and turn it into a federal case.

      TDH was on it immediately, because he is consistent. He won't hesitate to call bullshit when it directed against a republican. That's the difference.

      And IIRC, and I think I do, the story had a very short half-life and was never raised again during the presidential campaign.

      PART 1: The New York Times sexed up McCain—in a way which was slippery and slick. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/25/08.

      PART 1—HOW MANY IS SOME: To some inscrutable liberals, the New York Times remains one of our “most esteemed institutions.”


      To people willing to observe the real world, the Times is an upper-class, Versailles-style disaster. The paper’s attempt to sex up John McCain is just the latest example.

      For our money, the Times report was strikingly weak even if you remove the intimations of man-on-young-blonde sex/sex/sex—but we’ll put that off till tomorrow and Wednesday. Today, let’s get clear on the pitiful way the New York Times yelled sex/sex/sex about McCain’s alleged sexy-time conduct.

      Was McCain involved in sex/sex/sex? It’s fairly clear that the Times has no real idea. But so what? Atop the front page of Wednesday’s Times, Jim Rutenberg, and a cast of thousands, started off grandly. Like this:

      PART 2: The Times got tough in the Keating affair. We’d call it a major reversal. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/26/08.

      PART 3: Rutenberg recast an old tale—in a way which took down a great hero. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/27/08


    2. @mm

      The NYT didn't turn HRC's private server into a federal case, the FBI did.

      Maureen Dowd's musings appear in the Opinion Pages of The NYT, not the front page of the newspaper. She goes after all the leading candidates for POTUS

      2015, Dowd columns:

      Bush and Clinton Dynasties Hit Trump Bump

      Donald Trump Struts in His Own Pageant

      Trump the Disrupter

      He Is Heavy. He’s My Brother.
      Jeb Bush cannot quit W., learning the hard way that he’s trapped in Bushworld

      Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust

  8. The Bidens are a slippery bunch. It's not that I dislike any of them, it's just, all that cornball Catholic schmaltz, it's a bit much.

    1. Slippery cornball catholic schmaltz + fuzzy venomous novels + unwritten rules = much worse.

  9. "With his last few nouns, the dying man rose from his bed to trash the Clintons one last time!" Bob Somerby

    Bob, whacking himself as he types with rough thumbs, amped an "argument" into "begging," portrays a man "sitting down at a table" as
    "rising from his bed" and accuses Dowd of novelization.

    In fact Bob mostly closely resemble Chozick in taking a leap from Dowd's actual words. And it is the deathbed version told here by Bob and by his creative writing cohort Amy that Biden says is fiction.

    Read carefully little Howlers. Biden never says a word written by Dowd
    is wrong.

    1. He never mentions Dowd but he says the story she told never ever happened.

    2. This is where Biden's slipperiness comes in. He's not saying that what Dowd wrote in her column is false in its facts. He's saying that some kind of "Hollywood" gloss has accrued to the story, that people have interpreted the story as a "win one for the Gipper" deathbed moment, and that what really happened is not a Hollywood/win one for the Gipper moment.

      Dowd's source was either Joe Biden, or someone so close to Joe Biden that he/she was allowed to speak to Dowd as a proxy for Joe Biden. Obviously that column got written with Joe Biden's approval. Now he wants to distance himself from it.

      Whatever....Dowd is a disgrace, always has been, she is disgusting, and Biden is very slippery.

    3. Why is he still a thing?

  10. Unreconstructed Douchebag TrollOctober 27, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    The reporting was and is awful. Who has been pointing that out?

    Fine, the reporting has been and continues to be terrible, yes.

    But we have a Bigger Problem: The guy who's been pointing it out.

    What can we do about our bigger problem? Well, I for have have decided to hang out at this blog and call anyone who will listen a Bobfan. Someone's got to do it!

    You'll thank me later, little Howlers -- if you ever learn to think for yourselves like me, that is.