Part 2—The unexplained cries of the Haitian protesters: In Sunday’s New York Times, public editor Margaret Sullivan discussed some reader complaints about the newspaper’s coverage of Candidate Clinton.
In response to the reader complaints, Sullivan had spoken to Carolyn Ryan, the newspaper’s Washington bureau chief. She had also spoken to Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor.
According to Sullivan, the gods are well pleased with the coverage! According to Sullivan, Baquet “characterized the campaign coverage as ‘pretty fabulous’ in an email to me and said that ‘other departments have contributed to make it rich in issues as well as politics.’ ”
So it sometimes tends to go when readers challenge the Times.
Sullivan lodged some complaints of her own about the Times’ campaign coverage. She said she “find[s] that the chattiness of some of the offerings verges on the juvenile. And like a lot of readers, I could do without the excessive coverage of Mrs. Clinton’s every move and the oddly barbed tone of some of those pieces.”
Given the history of the Times, we have no idea why Sullivan thought a “barbed tone” toward Candidate Clinton was somehow “odd” (in the sense of being surprising). To her credit, she did indicate that this tone was inappropriate, as it would be if taken toward other candidates.
That said, Sullivan’s column was filled with words of praise for the Times—words of praise from the paper’s executive editor and its Washington bureau chief.
Baquet and Ryan seem deeply impressed with their newspaper’s work. Perhaps that’s as it should be.
According to Sullivan, Ryan even noted the fact that Matt Drudge has praised some part of the coverage! Rather than seeing this as a problem, Ryan treated it as a straight accolade.
Sullivan focused on the May 23 “political memo” by reporter Jason Horowitz, which we critiqued last week. She said she had received complaints about what one reader called “its tone of ‘sarcastic derision’ ” toward Candidate Clinton.
Sullivan seemed to agree about the tone of the piece. Apparently, Ryan didn’t. According to Sullivan, “Ms. Ryan told me she thought that the piece was not well understood by readers.”
Damn those thick-headed subscribers! Sullivan quoted Ryan saying, “I feel like a lot of people misread” the piece, in which Horowitz “was trying to do something counterintuitive and brave.”
Regarding the Clinton coverage:
For chronological reasons if nothing else, Sullivan didn’t discuss last Saturday’s front-page report about the Happy Hearts Fund deal—the troubling deal which Candidate Clinton’s husband “distastefully” engineered.
When we read that 2200-word news report, we thought we discerned the unpleasant smell of total war in the morning. Has Sullivan been receiving complaints about that peculiar piece?
We have no idea. Experienced writers like Deborah Sontag are skilled with the tools of insinuation and passive aggression. They hide their promulgation of tightly-scripted pseudo-scandal quite well.
For chronological reasons, there was no way Sullivan could have discussed the Happy Hearts report. That said, we were surprised by another omission—by her failure to mention the New York Times’ earlier “bombshell report” about the scary uranium deal.
Did Sullivan get reader complaints about that? We don’t know, but if she did, they weren’t mentioned in her column.
In our view, that April 24 “bombshell report” resembled the Happy Hearts Fund report—and we don’t mean that as a compliment.
In each case, the Times presented lengthy, front-page reports which seemed to suggest greedy, possibly scandalous conduct by one or both of the Clintons. But how strange! In each case, it was hard to discern the nature of the supposed offense.
We almost thought we detected the smell of total war in these gimmicked-up, front-page reports. But then, our nostrils are well-trained. We’ve read the Times in the past.
In Saturday’s Happy Hearts Fund report, a person might say that Sontag left no insinuation behind. She got off to a fast start with the sexual sliming of Petra Nemcova, a former model who now runs a major philanthropic org.
This is the way the report began. We’ve seen this purring before:
SONTAG (5/30/15): To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Petra Nemcova, a Czech model who survived the disaster by clinging to a palm tree, decided to pull out all the stops for the annual fund-raiser of her school-building charity, the Happy Hearts Fund.This newspaper sometimes plays these familiar old games with women who are too conventionally good-looking and whose politics misalign.
She booked Cipriani 42nd Street, which greeted guests with Bellini cocktails on silver trays. She flew in Sheryl Crow with her band and crew for a 20-minute set. She special-ordered heart-shaped floral centerpieces, heart-shaped chocolate parfaits, heart-shaped tiramisù and, because orange is the charity’s color, an orange carpet rather than a red one. She imported a Swiss auctioneer and handed out orange rulers to serve as auction paddles, playfully threatening to use hers to spank the highest bidder for an Ibiza vacation.
In a similar way, Naomi Wolf got slimed all up and down during Campaign 2000. In this report, Sontag had a good old time with Nemcova, reviewing a list of her former boyfriends and pleasuring readers with passive aggression about her coquettish ways:
SONTAG: In the end, the Happy Hearts Fund’s gala was a star-studded event, with celebrities including Naomi Watts and John Legend and the models Karlie Kloss and Coco Rocha in attendance. The Haitian president, Michel Martelly, a former musician who was Ms. Nemcova’s boyfriend’s boss at the time, was a second honoree, and he performed a couple of numbers with Wyclef Jean.Beyotch! But if you’ve read the Times in the past, you probably weren’t surprised by this gender-based hiss-spitting.
At the start of the evening, school bells rang and, as the master program dictated, “Petra dressed as schoolteacher” appeared, wearing glasses.
“Good evening, class,” the screen behind her read. She later changed into a sheer red lace gown donated by the designer Naeem Khan, with diamond and ruby jewelry by Chopard.
Nemcova’s vampish and trampish behavior played as a subtle background theme throughout the news report. That said, the actual target of the report was the greedy Bill Clinton, who had supposedly engineered a highly “distasteful” deal.
But how strange! Despite the length of the filler-clogged piece, it was very hard to discern the nature of Clinton’s offense. That said, a clear impression was conveyed. So it goes when the New York Times emits the smell of war.
After reading Sontag's report, Kevin Drum said he was puzzled. He said he couldn’t discern the problem with Clinton’s behavior in the Happy Hearts Fund matter.
For obvious reasons, neither could we! But the New York Times gave the “distasteful” conduct 2200 front-page words.
In its earlier “bombshell report,” the Times had doubled its displeasure. In an endless, distraction-filled piece which ran some 4400 words, the paper suggested that Hillary Clinton had engaged in virtually treasonous conduct in approving a scary uranium deal—with the Russians, no less!
In return for big money! What else?
That April 24 front-page report was the longest of the campaign. It was plumped out with seven photographs, a detailed timeline and an additional chart.
It was a giant report. But as in the Happy Hearts Fund matter, the New York Times did a very poor job defining the alleged misconduct. A clear impression was conveyed. But where was the actual offense?
Despite the length of the bombshell report, the Times failed to tell you that nine different cabinet departments sit on the committee which approved the scary deal. The Times failed to note that the Treasury Department, not State, chairs the committee in question.
Question: In all those departments, did anyone think there was a problem with the uranium deal? Did anyone in any department ever oppose the deal?
In 4400 distraction-clogged words, the Times presented no such indication!
Question: Did Hillary Clinton even take part in the decision-making about the uranium deal? Was she even part of the process?
In 4400 distraction-clogged words, the Times presented no evidence that she was! Indeed, if you read all the way to paragraph 61 of the endless exciting report, the Times finally quoted an assistant secretary of state who seemed to say that she wasn’t!
Can we talk? The Times keeps finding front-page scandals where scandals don’t seem to exist. Drum said he couldn’t spot the offense in the Happy Hearts Fund matter. In late April, we had the exact same problem with the sprawling bombshell report.
Did Margaret Sullivan get reader complaints about the bombshell report? If so, she didn’t mention them in Sunday’s column. For ourselves, we think we discern the smell of war in these tricked-out front-page reports.
Tomorrow, we’ll start with the most naked of all the insinuations in last weekend’s report. We refer to the unexplained cries of the Haitian protesters with whom Sontag ended her puzzling piece. Truly, when the Times wages total war, no insinuation will be left behind!
Tomorrow, we’ll start with the Haitian protesters, with whom Sontag ended her string of insinuations. We’ll move on to more of the bungled reporting which Baquet and Ryan seem to find so brilliant—bungled reporting which may decide who ends up in the White House.
They did this to Candidate Gore for two years. How did that war turn out?
Tomorrow: Concerning that $2.5 billion!