Part 5—His guest had already been fooled: Early on the morning of Thursday, April 23, the New York Times’ new “bombshell report” appeared on line.
That’s the way Chris Hayes described the report on his cable program that night. You could almost say that the affable youngster was observing “the New York Times rules.”
According to those unwritten rules, members of the upper-end press corps aren’t allowed to tell the truth about the patterns and practices of major mainstream news orgs like the Times. In a larger sense, they know they mustn’t discuss the actual way the upper-end press corps works.
As we’ll see below, Hayes seemed to play by those rules that night. He would vouch for the accuracy of the “bombshell report,” even as he spoke to a guest who had already become one of its very first victims.
In truth, the Times had been less than obsessively honest in its new bombshell report. Large amounts of information were weirdly missing from its report. Disguised disclosures were scattered about, misleading people who actually tried to read the sprawling report.
Michelle Goldberg was one of the people who got misled.
That night, Goldberg appeared as a guest on Hayes’ cable program. In the course of a ten-minute discussion, he affably vouched for the journalism in the bombshell report.
To watch the whole segment, click here.
Hayes’ posture that night was highly ironic. Earlier that day, Goldberg had become one of the first journalistic victims of the Times’ slippery work, which was less than obsessively honest.
Earlier that day, Goldberg had written a 1300-word piece for The Nation about the Times’ new report. In just her third paragraph, she became an early victim of the paper’s slippery journalism.
So did Goldberg’s progressive readers. This is what they read that day in just her third paragraph:
GOLDBERG (4/23/15): Take today’s New York Times investigation, “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company.” The story implies—but does not clearly allege—that money funneled to the Clinton Foundation greased the wheels for a deal that left Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy agency, in charge of 20 percent of American uranium reserves. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was part of a committee of cabinet officials that had the power to accept or reject the deal.“Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company?”
In fact, no “cash” was involved in the scary tale the Times was telling that day. The paper had borrowed the evocative word from the “right-wing smear merchant” (Goldberg’s term) whose unpublished book they were channeling in their new report.
“Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company?” As Goldberg noted, the insinuation at the heart of the new report was obvious:
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton approved a scary uranium deal in return for a flow of cash! Right there in paragraph 3, Goldberg explained how Clinton had supposedly done it:
“As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was part of a committee of cabinet officials that had the power to accept or reject the deal.” So Goldberg said, in her own words, in paragraph 3 of her piece.
That seems like a fairly clear statement. Is the statement accurate?
As far as we know, it is not. Goldberg apparently thought that the New York Times had established that fact in its new report. But that’s because of the newspaper’s slippery journalism.
Was Clinton “part of a committee of cabinet officials that had the power to accept or reject the deal?” The bombshell report doesn’t say that! Indeed, if you read all the way to paragraph 67, the bombshell report included a denial which should have appeared much earlier.
Below, you see material from paragraphs 63-67 of the endless bombshell report, which appeared in hard copy on Friday, April 24. We highlight the denial which Goldberg may not have read, along with a delayed disclosure a few paragraphs earlier.
That denial should have appeared much earlier. Perhaps due to its tardy placement, Goldberg seemed to have missed it:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (4/24/15): [In August 2010], the deal giving ARMZ a controlling stake in Uranium One was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for review. Because of the secrecy surrounding the process, it is hard to know whether the participants weighed the desire to improve bilateral relations against the potential risks of allowing the Russian government control over the biggest uranium producer in the United States. The deal was ultimately approved in October, following what two people involved in securing the approval said had been a relatively smooth process.Was Clinton “part of a committee of cabinet officials that had the power to accept or reject the deal?”
Not all of the committee's decisions are personally debated by the agency heads themselves; in less controversial cases, deputy or assistant secretaries may sign off.
The Clinton campaign spokesman, Mr. Fallon, said that in general, these matters did not rise to the secretary's level. He would not comment on whether Mrs. Clinton had been briefed on the matter, but he gave The Times a statement from the former assistant secretary assigned to the foreign investment committee at the time, Jose Fernandez. While not addressing the specifics of the Uranium One deal, Mr. Fernandez said, ''Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any C.F.I.U.S. matter.”
The world’s most forgiving person might find a way to describe that account as “technically accurate.” (We’d make a different assessment.) But can we talk? In terms of its actual reporting, the New York Times never established that Clinton played any role in the uranium deal at all!
In the passage shown above, assistant secretary Fernandez seems to say that Clinton was not involved in the scary uranium deal, which was actually approved in “a relatively smooth process.” But in a typically slippery act, the New York Times’ Jo Becker delayed this disclosure until paragraph 67, by which time almost no one was still reading her Cold War-flavored tale.
We get the impression that Goldberg may not have seen these delayed disclosures about the “relatively smooth process” which approved the uranium deal. Presumably as a result, she made that inaccurate or misleading statement right in paragraph 3 of her piece in The Nation.
Last week, we told you that this statement by Fernandez should have appeared at the start of the bombshell report. Goldberg’s misleading or erroneous statement helps establish why.
In fact, Jo Becker’s endless bombshell report was full of slippery “journalistic” practice. Most notable was all the information which wasn’t there—the missing information, the lack of reporting, which readers will rarely notice.
How many cabinet departments sit on the committee in question, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States?
Becker filled her lengthy report with scary distractions. But she never managed to establish that basic fact.
Who chairs the committee in question?
Elsewhere, we’ve read that Treasury chairs the committee, not State. Despite the endlessness of her report, Becker didn’t say.
Did anyone on the nine-member committee oppose the scary uranium deal? Did anybody actually think the uranium deal was scary?
In her Cold War-inflected report, Becker suggested the possibility that Clinton approved the scary deal in exchange for all that “cash.” But she never established that anyone on the whole committee actually opposed the scary deal—which was in line with Obama policy, as we learned in yet another delayed, semi-hidden disclosure.
On a journalistic basis, Jo Becker’s bombshell report was a slippery bombshell report. In the work they performed this day, we’d have to say that Becker and McIntire were less than obsessively honest, as is so often the case at the New York Times.
In her own piece that day for The Nation, Goldberg noted some of the problems with the Times report. This included Becker’s peculiar use of a factual claim which seemed to have been refuted the first time Becker used it, back in 2008, on the front page of this same New York Times.
Goldberg noted some of the problems. But doggone it! By paragraph 3, she herself had fallen victim to one part of Becker’s work. So it has gone, for decades now, when the Times performs such slippery work as it goes after a target.
On a journalistic basis, the New York Times had done some very poor work this day. But so what? That night, progressive viewers of the Hayes program received a good solid dose of “the New York Times rules.”
During a ten-minute segment, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters tried to keep the affable host focused on the problems with the insinuations which had been pimped by the Times.
It was a losing battle. Hayes kept turning the conversation toward the various things which “drive him nuts” and “drive him crazy” about the Clintons. He and Goldberg kept focusing on an alleged “failure of disclosure” by the Clinton Foundation which they said was “the big problem here for Bill Clinton.”
The allegations concerning disclosure took up exactly six paragraphs in the 75-paragraph bombshell report. Simply put, Hayes and Goldberg were ignoring the principal thrust of the sprawling report which wasn't obsessively honest. In effect, Hayes and Goldberg had cast themselves in the role of the squirrel who has found the one nut.
(A few days later, the Clinton camp explained the alleged disclosure problem. In response, Becker and McIntire filed yet another slippery report, which we’ll discuss in the next few days.)
As he spoke with Hayes and Goldberg, Boehlert kept trying to focus on the main thrust of the bombshell report. He kept encouraging Hayes to notice the problems with the New York Times’ slippery work.
Eric Boehlert fought the good fight, but his observations were disallowed. Eventually, his affable host seemed to feel that he could take no more of this nonsense:
BOEHLERT (4/23/15): What is in the news today? In terms of this permanent infrastructure of fishing expeditions, Hillary Clinton is going to be asked to testify about Benghazi in June, about the attack, thirty months after she attacked. So the Republicans have this blueprint for the Clintons, and yes, for the Obamas too. You set up this permanent infrastructure, you get in the right-wing media, and then you lure the New York Times to chase it, too.Go ahead—watch the tape. Hayes seems to be bristling at the idea that Boehlert had been criticizing the Times.
HAYES: Well, here’s my question, though. You say “lure the New York Times.” And I’ve seen you on Twitter sort of attacking them on this sort of alleged partnership—or I guess it’s not alleged, a partnership with the author.
BOEHLERT: They’re going to appear on the Fox News special this weekend, going after the Clintons.
HAYES: Right. But the point here though is that like, this does seem a legitimate piece of journalism. And I don’t think they got anything wrong. I mean—
He seems to bristle at the claim that the Times had been “lured” to this new set of slippery insinuations. He seems to bristle at the way Boehlert had criticized the Times for its partnership with author Peter Schweizer, who Goldberg had described in The Nation as a “right-wing smear merchant.”
He even starts to describe the partnership with Schweizer as an alleged partnership. He then says that the “bombshell report” “does seem like a legitimate piece of journalism.”
“I don’t think they got anything wrong,” he inexplicably says.
In response, Boehlert goes back to the beginning, trying to explain the problems to Hayes all over again. Instantly, Hayes returns to one of the things that drive him nuts about Clinton.
Here you see the way the guild will fight to keep you clueless. Boehlert makes an obvious observation. Quickly, Hayes changes the subject:
BOEHLERT (continuing directly): Well, this uranium story left out—Boehlert wants to discuss the Times, Hayes wants to criticize Clinton.
We talked at the beginning. They left out all kinds of context in terms of who approved that deal. If you read that story, at the end you think Hillary Clinton changed U.S. policy midstream because someone paid her husband for a speech. That is not even remotely close to what happened.
HAYES: Also, can someone explain to me—and again, like Bill Clinton can do whatever the heck he wants. But like, the other thing I thought when I read that article was like, why wasn’t there somebody being like, “Hey, Bill, maybe you should just turn down this speaking engagement? Like we don’t need the half million dollars?”
Quite correctly, Boehlert said the Times report conveys a gross misperception. Hayes responded with yet another complaint about the Clintons. He delivered a perfect non-sequitur there. It's the way this guild tends to work.
Hayes’ performance that night was one of the worst we’ve ever seen. That said, our favorite overpaid liberal stars have behaved that way for years.
The rules of the guild have always been clear. For professional and social reasons, you can’t afford to tell the truth about the work of dominant orgs like the Times. Beyond that, you can’t tell the truth about the work of the mainstream press as a whole.
How has the mainstream press corps worked? Goldberg made some remarkable statements to Hayes that night.
“There is this kind of long-standing journalistic vendetta against the Clintons,” she told him at one point. She said this vendetta “kind of allows people to exaggerate and follow these sort of right-wing conspiracy theories down all sorts of rabbit holes.”
She also said this: “Journalists consistently kind of throw out normal evidentiary standards in going after the Clinton.” Indeed, the Times’ Jo Becker had done just that in the new “bombshell report.”
On the air at The One True Channel, Chris Hayes wasn’t buying. He just kept listing the various things that bug him about the Clintons.
People are dead all over the world because people like Hayes have played this game for at least the last twenty years. To the bitter end, they refuse to discuss the actual way the upper-end press corps works.
On the brighter side, their social standing is intact. They are making ginormous bucks. Life is good in the land of those who know they can’t tell you the truth.
Still coming: Becker and McIntire seem to report on that disclosure issue