The Times soft-soaps Donald J. Trump: Yesterday, Donald J. Trump did a lot of high-decibel talking about some very important topics.
In this morning's editions, the New York Times made the following statement in a front-page news report about the president's remarks:
BAKER AND SULLIVAN (6/16/18): As he often does, Mr. Trump misstated or distorted a variety of facts, large and small, over the course of the television appearance and subsequent conversation with reporters.Trump had "misstated or distorted a variety of facts, large and small." The Times was willing to say that as a statement of fact, as part of a major front-page report.
Trump misstated or distorted a variety of facts? This included large misstatements?
At one time, that would have been regarded as a major news event. Today, though, the New York Times normalized Trump's wild misstatements in two major ways.
First act of normalization: The statement we've quoted doesn't appear at the top of the Times' report. It doesn't even appear on the Times' front page.
The statement appears inside the paper, on page A15, midway through the continuation of the front-page report. The Times quoted an array of misstatements before it bothered informing its readers that many of the president's statements had in fact been false.
In our view, the paragraph we quoted should have appeared on page one, at the very start of the news report. If the Times is prepared to say that a sitting president made a variety of misstatements, including large misstatements, the Times should report that fact early on.
Second act of normalization: In the hard-copy Times, the continuation of the front-page report consumes the top half of page A15. The bottom half of page A15 is consumed by Linda Qiu's latest strange "Fact Check" report.
What makes Qiu's report so strange? In hard copy, her report appears beneath this heading:
FACT CHECK OF THE DAYThat said, this was a highly abnormal "fact check." Qiu's report starts like this:
QIU (6/16/18): President Trump appeared on Friday outside the White House for a wide-ranging interview on “Fox and Friends.”Alas! Qiu reprints all sorts of wild statements by Trump, but many of these apparent "highlights" don't get fact-checked at all. Employing a confusing array of frameworks, Qiu and her editors reprint a wide array of statements by Trump, but fact-check only some.
The interview, which started at 8:30 a.m., morphed into an impromptu question-and-answer session with other reporters.
The following are highlights and fact checks of some of his statements.
Why would a major newspaper structure a "fact check" this way? We have no idea, but Qiu's report reprints many misstatements which never get fact-checked at all.
The New York is a very strong brand; it's also a very strange newspaper. Its judgments are persistently odd. Today, the paper's treatment of Trump's wild statements provides the latest example.
Modern history of The Crazy: The normalization of The Crazy started long before Trump. It was well underway in the 1990s, when upper-end newspapers like the Times normalized the headlong pursuit of pseudo-scandals involving Bill Clinton, then involving Al Gore.
The Crazy started getting normalized long ago. The process continued this morning. Our liberal world only began to complain when the normalization was extended to the crazy claims of Donald J. Trump—and in truth, we liberals only began to complain in earnest after the normalization of The Crazy helped get Trump elected.
We gamboled and played for a very long time. We knew Trump couldn't win!