Part 3—Hayes makes a remarkable turn: Good lord!
On Thursday evening, April 23, Michelle Goldberg seemed to make some very strong claims on Chris Hayes’ cable news program.
Goldberg was there to discuss a lengthy new report about some scary, slightly treasonous conduct by the Clintons—conduct involving the approval of a scary, Cold War-flavored uranium deal.
That morning, the lengthy report had appeared on line at the New York Times, a well-known American newspaper. Already, the sprawling report was shaping the nation’s political discussion. That morning, Joe and Mika had melted down before they’d even read it!
Goldberg was there to discuss that report. So was Eric Boehlert, a leading figure at the Clinton-friendly watchdog site, Media Matters. In the course of their discussion with Hayes, Goldberg seemed to make some remarkable claims.
To watch the whole segment, click here.
Good grief! Referring to a journalistic practice known as “the Clinton rules,” Goldberg said “there is this kind of long-standing journalistic vendetta against the Clintons.” She said this journalistic vendetta “kind of allows people to exaggerate and follow these sort of right-wing conspiracy theories down all sorts of rabbit holes and blind alleys.”
In even a slightly rational world, that would be a remarkable statement. It’s the kind of claim a cable news host might even want to explore.
Meanwhile, could it be that the sprawling new report by the Times had been fashioned in accord with those Clinton rules? Goldberg seemed to have little good to say about the Times’ journalistic performance.
“Well, the article doesn’t really allege anything,” she said early in the discussion. “It hints and implies and it juxtaposes things. But the only clear allegation is about the failure of disclosure...”
We’ll consider that one “clear allegation” below. But according to Goldberg, the new report didn’t really allege anything about the scary uranium deal which was its obvious focus.
The new report hinted, implied and juxtaposed things, Goldberg said. She seemed to describe the sorts of practices a major newspaper ought to avoid. Completing the hat trick, she said the Times had included a strangely inaccurate fact—an inaccurate fact it had introduced in a sprawling report in 2008.
The inaccurate fact had been corrected in 2009, Goldberg said. But how odd! There it was all over again in the Times’ new report!
Was Goldberg right in her various claims? Most remarkably, has the American press corps really staged a “long-standing journalistic vendetta against the Clintons?”
As part of this long-standing vendetta, do mainstream newspapers really “exaggerate and follow these sort of right-wing conspiracy theories down all sorts of rabbit holes and blind alleys?”
You’d almost think a cable news host would want to explore such claims! Under the circumstances, you’d almost think that cable news host would wonder if the new report by the Times was the latest example of this practice, what with its hints and juxtapositions and its lack of clear allegations.
In a rational world, a cable news host would probably follow that path. In this particular case, Hayes had already described the new report, two separate times, as “a bombshell report.” Under the circumstances, you’d think he might be especially curious about Goldberg’s claims and suggestions.
Alas! No such curiosity obtained on the Hayes program this evening. What happened instead? Something rather remarkable!
In a remarkable turn, Hayes and Goldberg completely ignored the various claims Goldberg made. In the passage shown below, their conversation took that remarkable turn. We join their discussion in progress:
GOLDBERG (4/23/15): So already, some of the facts, I think, are, like I said, a little bit weaker than the Times presents them.Hayes went on to explain what drives him nuts about the Clintons. Later, he explained what “drives [him] crazy” about the same heinous pair.
The one thing in the piece that I think the Clinton camp has to explain, I think it looks really bad that they haven’t even tried to explain, is the fact—
GOLDBERG: Right. They had an agreement with the Obama administration to publicly disclose these donors and they didn’t. And so not only is there the kind of questionable, what were they hiding, but they just, on their face of it, violated what was a clear rule.
HAYES: And it’s also not rebutted in the response, right? I mean, the response just doesn’t address that.
BOEHLERT: Right, because I think the larger take-away from that article is, “We caught the Clintons in a quid pro quo, we caught the Clintons selling U.S. policy for a speech to Bill Clinton,” But it’s not there.
HAYES: Okay. But here’s the thing that drives me nuts, OK?
At no point did Hayes identify anything that drives him nuts about the New York Times. He expressed no concerns about the wider press corps or its alleged vendetta.
Hayes never tried to discuss Goldberg’s claim about that journalistic vendetta. To the extent that Hayes controlled the discussion, it concerned the various things that drive him nuts about the Clintons alone.
Let’s discuss what happened in the passage shown above. In that passage, this ten-minute discussion took a remarkable turn.
Goldberg had already made some unflattering claims about the new “bombshell report.” She would go on to make a remarkable claim about a journalistic vendetta.
She had suggested that the bombshell report had nothing but insinuations to offer about that uranium deal. She had said that one of its basic facts seemed to be weirdly wrong.
These points didn’t interest Hayes. Before Goldberg could say the word in the passage above, he shouted “Disclosure!” along with her.
The discussion then left the uranium deal and focused instead on that topic—on that, and on the various things Hayes hates about the Clintons.
Why was that a remarkable turn? This is why:
The report Hayes described as “a bombshell report” is 4400 words long. Those 4400 words are spread through 75 paragraphs.
The gigantic bulk of the sprawling report concerns the scary uranium deal. The alleged “failure of disclosure” is discussed in just six paragraphs—paragraphs 49-54.
Tomorrow, we’ll show you what happened last week when the Times tried to discuss the disclosure issue at greater length. But in the passage we’ve shown you above, Hayes and Goldberg turned away from the report’s overpowering focus, choosing to zero in on a minor side topic instead.
In that passage, you see Boehlert attempting to make that point. But from that point on, Hayes was concerned with six tangential paragraphs from a 75-paragraph report about a uranium deal—and with the various things that bug him about Bill Clinton.
Was a genuine “failure of disclosure” described in the bombshell report? We’ll discuss that question tomorrow. But that was a very minor part of the so-called bombshell report.
From beginning to end, the focus of the sprawling report was that scary, semi-treasonous uranium deal with its frightening Cold War feel. And, as Goldberg had suggested, the Times’ reporting about that topic was just amazingly bad.
We discussed those problems all last week. In our view, they constitute a journalistic clown show.
Hayes displayed no interest in that. Despite the various things Goldberg said, he wanted to discuss the things that bug him about the Clintons.
At this point, can we talk? If you watch that ten-minute tape, you will see a key component of “the Clinton rules” in action.
You’ll see it unfold before your eyes. It’s a subordinate rule.
This rule has helped define our national discourse for a long time now. Professor Dean broke this subordinate rule that day when he assailed the Times, to everyone’s horror, right there on Morning Joe.
What rule played out on the Hayes show that night? This rule:
The wealthy stars of the mainstream press will not discuss the New York Times or the rest of their mainstream colleagues!
Dearest darlings, it mustn’t be done! As we’ve told you for many years, conservatives will trash the Times. Your favorite fiery liberal stars will all avert their eyes.
On this particular evening, Goldberg floated unpleasant suggestions about the quality of the work in the bombshell report. She also made an astonishing claim about a long-standing “journalistic vendetta.”
Hayes turned away from these themes, and Goldberg was happy to follow. From the passage shown above, it was Boehlert against the world.
Valiantly, Boehlert tried to discuss the Times report. He tried to discuss its principal focus. Hayes explicitly vouched for the work the Times did, as we will show you tomorrow.
Liberal voters have been conned this way for a great many years. People are dead all over the world because Hayes’ predecessors and current colleagues behaved in this same manner.
Tomorrow: “This does seem a legitimate piece of journalism and I don’t think they got anything wrong.”