It Could've Happened: Journalism's Brave New World


I didn’t think much of the New York Times story on Donald Trump possibly not paying taxes for 18 years, as I noted here yesterday. The Times story rather obviously stretched its conclusions well beyond where its flimsy evidence suggested, but nonetheless provoked a collective orgasm from much of the media.

“The mind-blowing scale of Trump’s billion-dollar loss, in one tweet,” Vox explained in one of its more deeply reported stories. Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo and a host of others used the word “bombshell to describe a story that was based on three pages of a 21-year-old tax return sent anonymously to the Times and that was “verified,” if that’s the right word, by a retired accountant who formerly worked for Trump and who got his degree about 65 years ago. Mother Jones even ran a second story with the news that Hillary’s campaign had run an ad using the Times story.

Today the Times has followed up with an equally dumb story, under the headline, “Donald Trump’s Business Decisions in ’80s Nearly Led Him to Ruin.” The Times, apparently seeking to justify its story yesterday, claims that the “full magnitude of [Trump’s] financial hemorrhaging was a closely held secret until this weekend,” when it reported about his $916 million in business losses in 1995 that “could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.”

I anxiously await the widespread use of “could have” in upcoming Times stories. It really allows you to say just about anything you want about anyone on the basis of very little information and hence is far superior to “allegedly,” “apparently” and “reportedly,” which are more fact-based terms.

The Times waits until the end of today’s story to say that while Trump could’ve gone bankrupt in the 1980s, by 1995 he “began the transaction that would eventually free him from his financial travails by taking “his struggling casinos public, selling stock to raise money and shifting his personal debt into the new company.”

Furthermore, the full magnitude of Trump’s problems in the 1980s have been known forever. Do a Google search and you’ll see countless examples. Here’s a 1992 story in the Washington Post, which cites Trump himself discussing it:

“One day in 1990, as Donald Trump tells it, he and model Marla Maples were strolling along New York’s Fifth Avenue when they passed a beggar. ‘You see that man? Right now he’s worth $900 million more than me. … Right now I’m worth minus $900 million,’ Trump told Maples…Trump’s lenders could have forced him into personal bankruptcy and stripped him of almost everything. But that didn’t happen.”

OK, but it could’ve.

Jesus Christ, Trump is awful and god forbid he becomes president but the media, broadly speaking, is clearly working overtime to help elect Hillary. This is truly a sad presidential campaign and it has revealed as much about the low state of the media as it has about the country’s dismal political class.

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Politically eclectic DC-based investigative journalist and CEO, Chief Sleaze Purveyor (CSP) and Creator of