RNC & New York Times' Boring Bias

(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The greatest crime of the New York Times may not be its abiding bias, but a consequence of that bias: It’s terribly boring. This morning, the Times’ homepage greeted visitors with three topline stories about the Republican National Convention (RNC). The first, a reported piece, is called, “Nominating Trump, Republicans Rewrite His Record.” The second, filed as “News Analysis,” is entitled, “The Republicans Promised Uplift and Then Tried to Rewrite History.” The third is a link to an ostensible fact-check of the evening that preempts any judgement of specific statements or claims last night by priming readers. Per the arbiters of truth, Republicans “lashed out at Democrats” by “repeatedly offering false or misleading characterizations” and “tried to portray President Trump in a positive light . . . often exaggerating his successes and glossing over the shortcomings in his handling of the pandemic.” Did you get that? Republicans are lashing out — and rewriting history.

Oddly, the Times’ reporters, “analysts,” and fact-checkers have conveniently forgotten what they had recognized just a week prior: Political conventions are designed to highlight the successes and mostly ignore the shortcomings of their party’s nominees. The Times was noticeably less worried about hyperbole after the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which it described as “a vivid illustration of how both the pandemic and widespread opposition to President Trump have upended the country’s politics.” Its reporters saw little value in fact-checking a young woman’s claim that Donald Trump was personally responsible for the death of her father. Instead, they described it as “an arresting moment, and one that reinforced the urgency the party hoped to impart.” Left-wing embellishment is captivating and politically potent. Right-wing red meat is Orwellian.

The reason for the differential treatment is not, as CNN’s Daniel Dale contends, that the GOP resorts to exaggeration, half-truths, and outright lies markedly more often than their counterparts, but that the media begins with the premise that reality has a liberal bias and works backward from there.

Take for example their labeling of a claim by former ambassador Nikki Haley that “Obama and Biden let Iran get away with murder and literally sent them a plane full of cash” as “half true.” The fact-checkers acknowledge that the Obama administration did in fact send a plane loaded with over $400 million to Tehran, but balks because it is “it is doubtful that the Obama administration could have stopped Iranian forces from killing” protesters in the aftermath of the rigged 2009 Iranian elections. Yet it is common knowledge that Obama was reluctant to issue a statement in support of the protesters and mealy-mouthed when he did.

Similarly, they embraced Andrew Cuomo’s absurd and contrived “European virus” pet theory to call Donald Trump Jr.’s claim that COVID-19 arrived here “courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)” “misleading.” Deliberately misunderstanding Trump Jr.’s intent to convey that the CCP failed to contain the virus in Wuhan and did not provide the international community with accurate information on its origin and scope, the Times explains that “many people in New York, for example, were infected by travelers returning from countries in Europe.”

Compare the intentionally uncharitable parsing of every claim made by RNC speakers with the preamble of the Times’s DNC fact-check. While acknowledging that some speakers “veered” from the truth “at times,” it asserted that “the substance of the remarks coupled with the scripted, vetted and, in some cases, prerecorded nature of the convention left little to fact check.”

The bias at the Times doesn’t just make for bad journalism, it makes for convoluted, repetitive, and boring writing: think “Republicans pounce,” or in this case “Republicans rewrite.” Partisan gatherings such as the DNC and RNC are indeed rife with misleading claims and unfair portrayals of opponents, but the Times has predictably decided to hold only the latter to strict, even unattainable standards.

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