“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”...Elsewhere in the NYT, there's a news analysis piece by Dan Barry arguing in favor of using the word "lie" in regular news articles when reporting on things Trump and his people say. You may remember that yesterday, I was critical of the NYT for saying "President Trump reiterated his false claim that at least three million illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton..." I said:
“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Mr. Bannon said of the election, calling it “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”
“The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign,” Mr. Bannon said. “Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: they were outright activists of the Clinton campaign.” (He did not name specific reporters or editors.) “That’s why you have no power,” Mr. Bannon added. “You were humiliated.”...
On the telephone, Mr. Bannon spoke in blunt but calm tones, peppered with a dose of profanities, and humorously referred to himself at one point as “Darth Vader.” He said, with ironic relish, that Mr. Trump was elected by a surge of support from “the working class hobbits and deplorables.”...
Asked if he was concerned that Mr. Spicer had lost credibility with the news media, Mr. Bannon chortled. “Are you kidding me?” he said. “We think that’s a badge of honor. ‘Questioning his integrity’ — are you kidding me? The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work.”
“You’re the opposition party,” Mr. Bannon said. “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.... The paper of record for our beloved republic, The New York Times, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated."
I disapprove of the use of the phrase "false claim" in a news article. Trump deserves criticism if he is purporting to know things that he does not know, but the NYT is also asserting that it knows something it does not know. Trump's allegation could be true. How can you know for certain without a thorough investigation?Barry is talking about a NYT headline with the word "lie" — "Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers." He recognizes that to say "lie" is to purport to know what is inside Trump's head, that he meant to say what he knew was false. But:
For [Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times], the question of intent was resolved, given that Mr. Trump had made the same assertion two months earlier through his preferred mode of communication, the tweet: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”What? How is repeating an assertion absolute proof that he knows it's false? Barry's argument just doesn't make sense to me. He stresses how important it is to get people to see how terrible lies are but shows little concern about preserving the newspaper's reputation for professionalism and strict adherence to evidence. I'm just a humble blogger and I'm doing free-wheeling commentary and horsing around and I still always follow a rule against making an assertion of fact about something I don't know. I love to write about what other people might be thinking, but I use words to show that I'm speculating. I can't believe professional journalists don't follow what I regard as a minimal standard.
Barry ends his piece with a quote from Sara Brady, "a crisis-communications specialist based in Florida":
“The media run the risk of being disrespectful to the president of the United States,” she said. “But the problem is: If he doesn’t get called out in some way, we as Americans are never going to know what’s true and what’s not.”Barry is acting as though the conflict for journalists is between being respectful to the President and respecting the facts. But if journalists would just be rigorous about the facts and only the facts, it would all work out. The real conflict — which Barry won't see or won't admit (is he lying?!) — is between strictly reporting the facts and wanting to smack the President around. By indulging in the urge to hurt the President, the paper succumbs to political activism.
Ironically, that empowers Trump.