Hack List 2017: Dean Baquet and the Staff of the New York Times


So there’s been some confusion, similar to what happened not long ago when La La Land, or whatever that crap movie was called, was announced as the Oscar winner for Best Picture and it turned out the real winner was the vastly overrated Moonlight.

Yesterday I announced on social media that Nicholas Kristof — yeah, I know, his sanctimonious liberal White Man’s Burden routine gets on your nerves too — would be written about for today’s installment of Hack List 2017. However, what’s the point of writing about Kristof?

(I will below, mostly recycled stuff I published ages ago but a bunch of fresh material too. And by the way, has anyone heard that Kristof, who is married to a former private wealth advisor for Goldman Sachs, has a child who worked last year as a “Summer Analyst” for the reviled and crooked Och-Ziff Capital Management? If that’s true, I’ll be curious to see what Nicholas K. writes about Och-Ziff or about Harvard-based Black Diamond Capital Investors, whose snotty, smug president and CEO is named Geoffrey Kristof, and who very much appears to be Nicholas K’s son based on the latter’s bio.)

(By the way, I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists, and then I’ll milk all this for another, easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it should be done by the end of the year. For previous installments of Hack List 2017, click here and here.)

Anyway, Nicholas K. has become a joke and he’s been written about to death. So I decided to write about what is almost never written about — except by me –namely the horrible tenure of Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times since May 2014.

Some of what I’m about to write is recycled, like this article in which I discuss what happened to Baquet, as he transitioned from being a newsman from New Orleans (who attended Columbia University) to being a rich New Yorker who has the most conventional, cautious views, which is reflected in the New York Times‘ conventional, cautious pages. Then there’s the newspaper’s outlandish, over-the-top Fake News coverage of the so-called Russiagate affair, along with much of the rest of the media, which has allowed Donald Trump to coin the term “Fake News,” even though there’s definitely some interesting things to explore regarding Trump’s relationship with Russia.

Say what you will about former executive editor Jill Abramson, who Baquet replaced, at least she had a pair of balls and the paper was far better when she ran it. Baquet has taken a once decent newspaper and turned it into a centrist, boring rag that is essentially a mouthpiece for cautious, conventional, centrist Democrats and foodies.

(By the way, in that piece of mine cited above I noted that the Times‘ editorial page is dominated by Clinton shills that I call The Execrables: Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Charles Blow, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and Nicholas Kristof. Though to be fair, it also runs conservative halfwits like Bret Stephens, author of an idiotic op-ed about climate change and of such scintillating stories, which I never read, as “I Believe Some of Your Best Friends Are Jewish,” “Hurricanes, Climate and the Capitalist Offset,” and “The Dying Art of Disagreement.”

Baquet is African-American, which is ironic because under him African-Americans and other minorities have had a very difficult time, unless they are educated at elite universities and wear pearls or loafers to the office and don’t write anything too controversial. Another thing I don’t like about Baquet — who I worked for at the Los Angeles Times; more below — is that this mild-mannered man is almost universally liked (in public anyway).

As a newspaper editor, you need to be respected but not liked — just ask my long suffering staff –and if more than ten percent of your reporters (and the public) like you, you’re doing something wrong. Baquet has no moral backbone; he’s sort of the Barack and Michelle Obama of newspapering, and not just because he’s Black as well.

As I mentioned above, I worked for Baquet when he was a top editor — maybe even the top editor, as a matter of fact I think he was — at the Los Angeles Times. I went to St. Louis in 2004 to cover bogus GOP charges of voter fraud by Democrats — and mind you, Republicans had done so much to defraud voters and suppress African-American turnout in 2000 that the George W. Bush administration’s Justice Department was forced to  to monitor the election four years later to prevent a repeat — and wrote a story about it.

But terrified Baquet intervened and had reporters sent to three other states so the Times could run a “balanced,” meaningless story saying that Republicans and Democrats were both claiming the other side was cheating. I vigorously protested to Baquet via email and left the Times not long afterwards for a far better job as Washington correspondent for Harper’s. (Before leaving I had sent my emails to Baquet to Michael Massing, who used them for a story in the New York Review of Books. That was probably a factor in my leaving the Times, which occurred not long after Massing’s story appeared.)

In terms of staff Hacks at the New York Times, you might read this article by me in the New York Observer and learn about the vastly overrated Maggie Haberman, who, one Clinton 2016 campaign official said, “We have had… tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed”; the unctuous Glenn Thrush, who while covering the 2016 election for Politico apologized in an email to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta for writing a story draft that he feared was too critical, writing, “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything”; and the newspaper’s pathetic media columnist, Big Jim Rutenberg, about whom nothing further needs to be said, at least here.

As to Times columnist Tom-Ass Friedman, check out my story in Baffler. It was about the godawful think tank Center for American Progress, but has some funny stuff about Tom-Ass, like this:

Try to conjure up the dullest, most vapid intellectual experience you can possibly imagine. A Matthew Perry film festival. A boxed set of Kenny G’s entire discography. Al Gore “in conversation” with Wolf Blitzer.

Now imagine something worse. Far, far worse. Once you’ve hit the speculative bottom of the unexamined life, you’d be hard pressed to outdo Thomas Friedman holding forth on “Climate Change and the Arab Spring.” What’s still more disturbing is that Friedman’s maunderingsunlike the foregoing litany of intellectual failures—actually took place, and were recorded for posterity, during a panel event this February at the Center for American Progress, America’s most influential liberal think tank. The great globalizing muse of the New York Times op-ed page was joined on stage by Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Princeton University professor and former State Department deputy to Hillary Clinton.

You may be assured that the trite speculations came fast, flat, and furious.

(Matt Taibbi, of course, has written a ton of great stuff about Tom-Ass, including this.)

As to Kristof, it’s sort of funny because just the other day I got a personal email from him, saying, “Look, I’m not a marketer. I’m a Times columnist, and my passion is shining a light on neglected stories. As when I sneaked into the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to report on atrocities unfolding there (Which, because of the media attention, may be ending. Please keep your fingers crossed.).”
[Editor’s note: Please STFU you sanctimonious bore. Nothing good comes of what you write, for example, see my article about how you totally fucked up Sudan and South Sudan along with George Clooney.]
After this opening Kristof asked me to give the Times money. I didn’t.
In any case, if you skim Kristof’s vast catalogue of semiweekly homilies you’ll see he writes with a confidence in progressivism I might otherwise associate with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
In a 2010 Teen Ink interview he said, “One of the reasons for a lot of suffering in poor countries isn’t just low income but is really bad spending decisions — those are disproportionally by men. The amount of money that very poor families spend on alcohol, tobacco, prostitution and, you know, CocaCola . . . instead of educating their kids … It’s pretty dramatic and, essentially, that is a function of men controlling those purse-strings.”
He was probably more or less reading from his own column, Moonshine or the Kids, in which he wrote, “[If] the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.”
Without missing a beat he embraces a sincere belief in bootstrapping that combines the spirit of the public reformist and life-coach: “That probably sounds sanctimonious, haughty and callous, but it’s been on my mind while traveling through central Africa with a college student on my annual win-a-trip journey.” Sure, this was about the Congo, but we’re still clearly in White Man’s Burden territory.
In a more recent piece, “3 TVs and No Food,” Kristof gives us another taste of this same garbage:
The home, filthy and chaotic with a broken front door, reeks of marijuana. The televisions and Emanuel’s bed add an aspirational middle-class touch, but they were bought on credit and are at risk of being repossessed. The kitchen is stacked with dirty dishes, and not much else.
I bet this guy’s kitchen is appointed with great appliances. I bet he’s got one of those new dryers that plays Mozart when the cycle’s done. But he goes on to write, “Liberals too often are reluctant to acknowledge that struggling, despairing people sometimes compound their misfortune by self-medicating or engaging in irresponsible, self-destructive behavior.”
Yeah, shit head, just like some rich, privileged people like you snort coke or drive drunk, but I haven’t seen you writing about that. (Note: I have no knowledge that Kristof snorts coke or drives drunk; I hope not because it would take all the pleasure out of those activities.)(Note: I don’t do that stuff, nor do I condone it.)
The self-effacing aw-shucks who-me? kind of empathy-building to which I draw your attention above: It’s kind of his thing, like a street magician’s patter. We see it in the chuckle. We see it when he chooses to own his sanctimony. We see it when he says, “I’m no expert on domestic poverty,” and then lectures us about that very subject in great detail.
Clucking at the lower classes for getting their priorities mixed-up as they lead dissolute lives is annoying in itself and all the more so when Kristof uses feminism to voice a creepy paternalism. It’s a lot of fatherly sermonizing that I suppose wins approving harrumphs from devotees of his new Babbittry.
Kristof’s the co-author with his previously mentioned wife, Sheryl WuDunn, of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This less than dynamic duo have certainly turned oppression into personal opportunity, to the tune of about $50,000 for a joint speaking appearance where they “give a voice to the voiceless.”

It’s particularly disgusting since, as previously reported in these pages, Kristof’s specialty is traveling to poor countries and finding a photogenic native here and there who is doing God’s work with the help of Western NGOs and Hollywood movie stars. For example, he helped make Somaly Mam, founder of an anti-sex trafficking group called Helping Women in Danger, into an international celebrity. The only problem is that Mam was a total fraud; she misappropriated vast sums of donor money and her personal tale of heroism — she claimed she had sold to a brothel and escaped after ten years – was about as fact-based as the Pippi Longstocking trilogy. (Still one of my favorites works of non-fiction.)

Kristof also has been an advocate for the apparel industry in countries like Cambodia. He calls apparel work an “escalator” out of poverty, though there’s little evidence to support that. In Cambodia, most apparel workers get paid terribly and work in terrible conditions and dead-end jobs.

I’m not sure what Kristof makes at the Times — please email me at ken@washingtonbabylon.com if you do — but he’s clearly very well paid. WuDunn, meanwhile, is a senior banker “who helps growth companies, including those operating in the fields of new media technology, entertainment, social media, healthcare, and the emerging markets, particularly China,” according to her bio.

As to journalists and their speaking gigs, Washington Babylon has approached the speaking bureau of Vox editor and Hillary Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein, using the alias of Emma Stoffels. Young Stoffels was meant to be a campus activist recruiting speakers for a sizzling event next spring: “The 2017 Millennial Policy Summit: What Happens Now?”

It turned out that Klein, a principled opponent of a $15 minimum wage, wanted $30,750, plus hotel accommodations, meals and incidentals. Median household income in the United States was $56,500 in 2015 so Klein apparently takes in more than half of what a typical family lives on for a full year. (Klein, rest assured, will be making an appearance on Hack List 2017 soon.)

How do the Kristof-WuDunn duo make out?

Well, first off, it’s great to know that Kristof “always keeps audiences on the edge of their seat in enthralling presentations that catapult many into action themselves. As a master story teller with an unmatched reputation and peerless perspective on the events that shape our world, listeners find themselves glued to their seats and captivated by moving, first-hand global stories until, of course, the inevitable, emotive standing ovation at every engagement’s end.”

Emma Stoffels also inquired about the possibility of Kristof and WuDunn addressing the Millennials conference. Kristof’s fee was $30,000 and WuDunn’s was $20,000 — and both also demand first class travel expenses — for a combined $50,000. Not bad pay for giving a voice to the voiceless.

Anyway, getting back to Baquet, let’s just say, because this story is quite long, that as executive editor he is responsible for this whole sad affair. It’s a disgrace.

Coming soon: Jeff Bezos and the staff of the Washington Post.

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