Least competent news org around: Back in 2011, Donald J. Trump told the world who he was through his birther depredations.
From that to this this, the New York Times has had a hard time discussing what Trump said and did. How strange is the work of the glorious Times? Consider Jonathan Mahler's piece in last Sunday's New York Times magazine.
Ironically, Mahler's piece was an essay about what the headline described as our "Post-Truth Era." Pitifully, it didn't take long for Mahler himself to go all post-truth on us.
These were his fourth and fifth paragraphs:
MAHLER (1/1/17): Our most famous self-investigator is, of course, our incoming president, Donald J. Trump; perhaps no one is more committed to embracing and trumpeting unproven claims from the internet. Six years ago, as he flirted with the idea of running for president, he became especially preoccupied with a theory being advanced by a right-wing extremist named Joseph Farah...Good God. In talking about this notion nonstop, Trump didn't say that he was considering sending private investigators to Hawaii to investigate Obama's birth. Repeatedly, he said that he had actually done so.
Farah had floated plenty of specious arguments in the past, among them the claim that gay men orchestrated the Holocaust and that Muslims have a 20-point plan for conquering the United States by 2020. But the Farah campaign that captured Trump’s imagination held that America’s first black president, Barack Obama, might have been born outside the United States. Trump talked about this notion almost nonstop; he even said he was considering sending private investigators to Hawaii to prove that the president’s birth certificate was a forgery.
There is no doubt about what Trump actually said. On April 7, 2011, he said this, as part of a long exchange with Meredith Vieira on the Today Show:
TRUMP (4/7/11): You are not allowed to be a president if you're not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country, and I'll tell you what. Three weeks ago I thought he was born in this country. Right now I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding.He didn't say that he was considering sending investigators. He said his gumshoes were already there, that they couldn't believe what they'd found. To watch the tape, click here.
VIEIRA: You have people now down there searching—I mean—
VIEIRA: I mean in Hawaii.
TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding.
Trump's meaning was fairly clear that day, but he erased any possible doubt in the days which followed. Obliterating any ambiguity, Trump repeated these claims on at least two different Fox News programs and on ABC's This Week.
We don't plan to search beyond that. He may have made these noxious claims on additional programs.
That said, isn't it amazing? Six years later, the New York Times still can't get these basic facts right, not even in a magazine piece about "the post-truth era!" We say they "still" can't get it right because of the paper's previous remarkable blunders, committed in July of last year.
How incompetent is the Times? On Sunday, July 3, 2016, the paper published a lengthy, front-page report about Trump's history as a birther. Ashley Parker was the lead writer, ensuring the gong show which followed.
This is the way she began. Remember, Parker got her start as (and no, we aren't making this up) Maureen Dowd's "research assistant:"
PARKER (7/3/16): Joseph Farah, a 61-year-old author, had long labored on the fringes of political life, publishing a six-part series claiming that soybeans caused homosexuality and fretting that ''cultural Marxists'' were plotting to destroy the country.There again, in paragraph 5, Parker made the same basic error. Rather plainly, she seemed to imply that Donald J. Trump had only proposed sending gumshoes to Hawaii.
But in early 2011, he received the first of several calls from a Manhattan real estate developer who wanted to take one of his theories mainstream.
That developer, Donald J. Trump, told Mr. Farah that he shared his suspicion that President Obama might have been born outside the United States and that he was looking for a way to prove it.
''What can we do to get to the bottom of this?'' Mr. Trump asked him. ''What can we do to turn the tide?''
Mr. Farah recalled that Mr. Trump even proposed dispatching private investigators to Hawaii, Mr. Obama's birthplace, to resolve the debate.
It was strange that Parker wrote it that way, because, on this rare occasion, she seemed to know the truth. Much later in her lengthy piece, she described Trump's actual claim—although, in keeping with basic Times rules, she also committed a basic factual error:
PARKER: But what most impressed Mr. Farah was just how many hours Mr. Trump was willing to devote to the question. ''This was a busy guy, this was a multibillionaire, and I was surprised that he was willing to spend that kind of time on it,'' he said.Deep inside her lengthy piece, no longer on the Times' front page, Parker now reported what Trump had actually said. Unfortunately, he didn't make any such statement on The View, as a review of this videotape shows. Parker was quoting what he had said on the April 7 Today Show.
Mr. Farah also stressed to Mr. Trump that the issue was one of ''transparency,'' and Mr. Trump began using the phrase.
''He started saying 'transparency,''' said Mr. Nunberg, Mr. Trump's former adviser. ''It's code for, 'This guy is the Manchurian candidate.'''
Mr. Trump also said repeatedly that he had sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to unearth information about Mr. Obama's birth records. ''They cannot believe what they are finding,'' Mr. Trump told ABC's ''The View.''
Well sir, six months went by, and the New York Times decided to tackle this gruesome behavior again. It wasn't on a Sunday front page this time. This time, it appeared at the top of a Sunday magazine piece—and Mahler bungled again.
We close with a simple question. At this point, how could any journalist still not know what Donald Trump actually said? In this case, it seems that Mahler may not have known, and some editor didn't know either. In what realm do they live?
The sheer incompetence of the Times is truly a thing to behold. That said, such incompetence only takes hold among folk who simply don't care.
Final point about Parker's report: Back in July, Parker's greatest dive for Trump involved the question that didn't howl.
Were Trump's "repeated" statements actually true? Did Trump ever send gumshoes to Hawaii? Or had he just been lying all along?
It was the world's most obvious question; Parker posed it to no one at all. Dearest darlings! When you work for the glorious Times, there are questions you simply don't ask!
No one has to ask it now! In a bit of post-truth work, Mahler has reinvented the basic facts about what Donald Trump said.