In the aftermath of the election, the New York Times apologized to its readers for screwing up its campaign coverage and failing to foresee Donald Trump’s victory, and promised it would do a better job going forward. “We aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism,” said a letter signed by publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Dean Baquet. “That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.”
It was, theoretically, encouraging news, but little has changed in the Times coverage since the election. It is currently leading the charge, along with the Washington Post, of exposing the alleged Russian plot to steal the vote from Hillary — whose campaign it turns out rejected last minute union help in Michigan because its internal polling showed it comfortably ahead — but thus far has produced little hard evidence to substantiate the claim.
In today’s installment, we learn from the Times that clues pointing to Moscow include Microsoft Word documents posted by Guccifer 2.0 that “had been edited by someone calling himself, in Russian, Felix Edmundovich — an obvious nom de guerre honoring the founder of the Soviet secret police, Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky” and bad links in the texts “were marked by warnings in Russian, generated by what was clearly a Russian-language version of Word.” There was even a Russian hacking squad codenamed Cozy Bear and team members nicknamed Boris and Natasha. (Actually, I made that last part up, but I expect revelation of Operation Bullwinkle J. Moose is imminent.) As Mark Ames tweeted, “You can’t stop a culture in mid-hysteria meltdown, you just have to step out of the way and, uh, laugh in horror.”
Did Putin seek to influence the U.S. election? Obviously. He would have been remiss not to, just as the U.S. seeks to influence overseas elections, periodically by organizing military coups or economic sabotage programs. Did he organize a grand operation to steal the election for Trump? There’s still no evidence that comes close to proving it and in the end he didn’t have the power to make Democratic voters stay home in droves or, in some cases, pull the ballot for Trump.
Meanwhile, the Times has hired Politico‘s Glenn Thrush to strengthen its White House coverage. Yeah, that’s the same Thrush who was seen apologizing via email to John Podesta for a campaign story, which he sent a draft of, that he thought was too critical, saying, “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything.” Thrush had a story in Politico yesterday about the “Democrats’ dark-arts master,” David Brock, in which he heaped praise upon his subject, who was apparentlly a source for a good deal of Thrush’s campaign reporting.
Thrush will be joining a team that includes Maggie Haberman, who also ran her stories by the Clinton campaign before publication. “We have had [Haberman]…tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed.” campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri wrote in one of the Podesta emails.
Jim Rutenberg, the Times‘ media columnist, will certainly bring additional muscle to the newspaper’s Trump coverage. During the campaign, he all but endorsed Clinton in a column that said he and other reporters viewed “a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous,” which required them to report on him with a particularly critical point of view.
I’m not sure why Trump deserved more scrutiny than Hillary, but Rutenberg apparently still feels that reporting on him is somehow different then reporting on other politicians. “Television news is going to have to do its part should Mr. Trump and his administration try to make policy based on false assertions, the same way he used them on the campaign trail,” he wrote a few days ago in a column titled In Trump Era, Uncompromising TV News Should Be the Norm, Not the Exception.
“Too often television news, especially on cable, serves as a megaphone for politicians who use it to forward lies and propaganda while so effortlessly ignoring questions they’re supposedly there to answer,” Rutenberg added helpfully.
Yeah, thank goodness the Times and other print outlets would never do that.