Slate has published a transcript of what it calls the New York Times “crisis town-hall meeting.”
The transcript shows that Times executive editor Dean Baquet seems to fault readers for their failure to understand the Times and its duties in the era of Trump. “They sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president,” Baquet said. “And our job is to figure out why, and how, and to hold the administration to account. If you’re independent, that’s what you do.”
This was followed by 75 minutes of Q&A with staffers in which, by my count, every question except one could be summarized as “Why can’t we call Donald Trump a racist more often?”
In terms of figuring out why and how Trump was elected, I feel sure that “Can you believe what stupid racists Republican voters are?” moves us further from rather than closer to an answer.
It also says a lot about about the so-called “independence” of the New York Times.
Here is what Baquet said about the Times coverage of the Russian collusion (non-)story:
“Chapter 1 of the story of Donald Trump, not only for our newsroom but, frankly, for our readers, was: Did Donald Trump have untoward relationships with the Russians, and was there obstruction of justice? . . .
“The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, “Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it.” And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically, I think. Because, you know, for obvious reasons. And I think that the story changed. A lot of the stuff we’re talking about started to emerge like six or seven weeks ago. We’re a little tiny bit flat-footed. I mean, that’s what happens when a story looks a certain way for two years. Right?”
No, that’s not right. “A little tiny bit flat-footed”? The story “looked” a certain way for two years because you pre-selected it as the number one narrative of the Trump presidency and because you deliberately framed it a certain way for two years, and that way was, in a word, wrong.