40 Comments

When the NYTimes moves Maggie Haberman from the front pages to the society pages where she can breathlessly promote Ivanka and Jared, you know, as part of her beat, then and only then will I believe that they have moved on from access journalism.

Expand full comment

Maggie deserves the Judith Miller treatment.

Expand full comment

Recall that Trump was setting the stage for a stolen election claim in the summer of 2016 when he constantly screeched that only a Trump win could validate the contest. The media was mute about how outrageous and dangerous it was for a candidate to make such a claim. And it was Dean Baquet who, in early 2017, stifled discussion of the likely probably cause of Trump's endless dishonesty - an underlying mental condition. Eric's description is perfect: institutional failure.

Expand full comment
author

press also slept walked through the Big Lie in the weeks right after the election, portraying Trump as ‘acting out’ and ‘processing’ the loss

Expand full comment

Treating him like the needy, surly baby that he is.

Expand full comment
founding

The big lie that Trump told to get elected was that he is a successful business man. The media knew that his appearance of success was built on lies, cheating workers and contractors, fraud, his use of undocumented workers, etc. His behavior and multiply bankruptcies had been documented for decades by real journalists like Wayne Barrett and David Cay Johnston. There was verified story after story about these things yet if they were reported on at all it was briefly before the media went back to obsessing about the fake scandals of Hillary’s emails and the Clinton Foundation.

Expand full comment

Most of the press today will go along with whatever their employer tells them to do or say. What we have to remember in the time we are living in is the press will go along with the BIG LIE for the money. Everything comes down to MONEY.

Expand full comment

This is so so true. The MAGA crowd was primed, starting in 2016, maybe earlier. He is a master manipulator.

Expand full comment

I grew up in NJ/NY media world - 60s/70s ish - and EVERYONE in the press knew he was a sleeze and reported on him as such. No one took him seriously. The current reporters seemed to have followed suit when he ran for prez. They still didn’t take him seriously. Surprise!!!!

Expand full comment
founding

The media acquiescing to Republican lies didn’t start with Trump. People remember the lies about WMD that most of the media bought without serious fact-checking. (My local newspaper was part of the Knight Ridder organization so we saw several stories about the CIA WMD experts having serious doubts about Bush’s and Cheney’s WMD claims.) Too many, however, don’t realize that the First Gulf War was sold to us with lies about Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators in Kuwait. That lie was testified to in front of Congress by a young female “eye witness” who turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador who had been in DC at the time of the invasion. The media knew that the Bush I administration had hired the notorious Big Tobacco’s PR company Hill & Knowlton to sell that war to us. The baby-killing fairytale was their creation.

The right has a powerful, intimidating propaganda machine and it doesn’t only operate in the US. The Guardian recently had an article describing the timidity of the British media when it comes to the Tories. Even the BBC is terrified of taking Boris’s government which is why evidence of corrupt behavior going back years has been glossed over.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/27/media-government-cronyism-dishonesty-bbc-press

Expand full comment

About time. ‘Institutional failure’ says it all. Thank you Eric for an important piece.

Expand full comment
author

you’re welcome!

Expand full comment
founding

Just saw this in the WaPo which confirms what I have thought for awhile — that the media is not telling the public that Trump is losing support among Republicans. I recently saw a story about how more and more Republicans are saying that their loyalty is to the party, not Trump. It got very little attention. I have seen a couple of stories about the Republicans losing more and more members, again with little attention. Now there is this jaw-dropping report about Republican operatives refusing to acknowledge that their polling is showing Trump is very unpopular in key battleground districts:

“When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/10/republicans-dont-just-lie-voters-they-lie-themselves/

It makes sense that Republicans don’t want they information to get a lot of attention because they know that perception of strength is 90% of retaining power. What doesn’t make sense it that the mainstream media isn’t shouting these facts from the rooftops. Clearly they prefer to keep the narrative of Big Bad Trump, not the Trump the Loser alternative.

Expand full comment

It's so good to know that there were, indeed, other people who, for the past 5 years, were saying, when they opened the NYT and WaPo.."WHY CAN'T YOU JUST SAY LIE?"...but it is cold comfort now, as all I can think of are Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda movies for Hitler and HIS big lie and where we are headed now...it's not good, not good at all. Fact: Republican-controlled legislatures 30, Democratic-controlled legislatures 18; voter suppression laws off the charts....unless HR1 is passed, we are finished as a democracy. This is how I feel on a grey cold Monday in Pennsylvania. But thank you Eric, for confirming my sanity.

Expand full comment

Now they’re making their way onto school boards. Very bad.

Expand full comment

They’ve been in the Texas school board for years. Edited “immigrants” for “slavery” in high school textbooks until a black woman made it an issue and eventually the term “slavery” was reinserted. Unbelievable.

Expand full comment

Yes, the born agains were working their way onto school boards when I was an educator in the 90s. The Texas folks are Neanderthals and have been pushing their beliefs on the public schools forever. Wretched.

Expand full comment

And any other local, lower-level positions in order to get a foot in the door. It's stealthy in that they know many people don't vote but in the general election. There needs to be more awareness.

Expand full comment

Not just “lies”. Donnie is directly responsible for well over 300,000 Covid deaths for no better reason than his deliberate refusal to respond responsibly to the pandemic — the very definition of killer. And the media still refuse to describe him as a killer.

As for the press and the GOP: Given their longtime alliance, you can’t expect the former to criticize the latter with any vigor.

Expand full comment

Water wet. Fire hot. Trump lies.

Expand full comment

Cept for yrs, it was "water in moist-like state-- is it wet?, what even is fire anyways, Trump provides falsehoods".

Expand full comment

Right on the nose, which people are saying is on the face. Can you believe it?

Expand full comment

Dog goes "woof"

Cat goes "meow"

Bird goes "tweet"

And mouse goes "squeek"

But there's one sound

That everyone one knows ...

What does the trump say?

Lie lie lie de lie da lie lie yammer yammer lie lie lie

Expand full comment

Water wet. Fire hot...and REPUBLICANS LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Expand full comment

I don't think the sudden change has to do with "access" to Trump as much as it is about establishing a new norm now that Joe Biden is in office. Note the eagerness with which the media and press fell all over themselves to claim that President Biden noting that it is unacceptable to close polls at 5:00 was a "lie", because they willfully but incorrectly interpreted his accurate observation as a claim that the GA law mandates that, rather than simply allows that. So in order to excuse their false claims that Biden "lied", they must belatedly admit that Trump has been lying all along, about practically everything, from his "investigators" in Hawaii to his taxes being under audit to whether he colluded with Russia, why he fired Comey, and how he tried to smear Biden with false accusations from Ukraine. But of course, they don't admit he lied about all those things, they just resolve to accept that he's lying about the 2020 election that removed him from office.

Expand full comment

You really should ask Dean Baquet for a comment. He and other Times leaders through the years would have fit in well with an old baseball umpire, Silk O'Loughlin, who responded to questions about his calls by saying, "The Pope for religion, O'Loughlin for baseball: Both infallible."

Expand full comment

I don't recall Augie Donatelli entertaining many questions, either.

Expand full comment

Most umpires would say the same thing O'Loughlin said. Some of them would be right. Augie MIGHT have been one of them.

Expand full comment

Even if the press had parsed the word "lie" to mean "a well thought-out concoction" rather than "the whims of a disturbed man", there still is the fact that the ramblings of a lunatic mind are still lies if not true.

Expand full comment

Hillary had it right about his craziness when they ran as their party’s nominee and I was thrilled she was saying it out loud; it was so obvious to me. But the press didn’t think her remarks were as serious; some even blamed some of her loss for having used that truth as a campaign strategy. Oh, the emails.

Expand full comment

I noticed this just yesterday listening to NPR. Every journalist was using the term “lie” in reference to Trump’s lies abt the election. I was thrown aback and thought “Finally!” I may have even cried a few tears of joy.

Expand full comment

I wish many more people than subscribers could read this piece.

Expand full comment

The scary thing is if Trump doesn't get indicted (when will that happen, when") he could be back running in 2024. Will The NY Times go back to the thesaurus? I would bet my last dollar they will shy way from the "lie" word again if that were too happen. A tiger does not change its stripe.

Expand full comment

WaPo has not followed suit about the use of "lie". In a number of pieces about the Liz Cheney story, WaPo writers have repeatedly referred to Trump's falsehoods about the 2020 election. Use of the term Big Lie has marked the only appearance of "lie" in these stories.

Expand full comment
author

Yes, I noticed that too re: WP. Will be interesting to see if any change in coming days

Expand full comment

Me three. I’ve noticed that too. It would be great if ‘Big Lie’ became the norm.

Expand full comment

It would be better if the simple "lie" became the norm. Only using the term 'lie' in the "Big Lie" construct is really problematic, as it encourages the idea it is simply a label or name for a political scandal, rather than an accurate description of a monstrously dishonest propoganda strategy.

Expand full comment

True but I’m using the term ‘Big Lie’ as a lie that is repeated over and over and over again until people start to believe it, a tactic not a noun. The Rs are now repeatedly and in unison calling the prez’s policies the ‘Biden’s radical agenda.’ A big lie said over and over again so the base will believe it and start to mimic it.

Expand full comment

I take you to mean that you meant to use the term "Big Lie" to refer to the original doctrine, attributed to the Nazi propagandists. I had presumed you were referring to Trump's "Big Lie" that he had or should have won the election. The confusion is not coincidental, obviously, and I had that in mind when I described the Big Lie as "monstrous propoganda". But I think "Biden's radical agenda" is an interesting exception, since other than Republicons assuming it is a bad thing, I believe it fails to be a 'Big Lie' because most Americans disagree, and consider "Biden's radical agenda" to be just what the country needs.

Expand full comment

Make probably PROBABLE.

Expand full comment