The New York Times published a hit piece on President Donald Trump, a piece in which the news outlet’s authors—Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Michael Schmidt—cited only “several American officials” and other such, but not a single on-the-record source to underlie their central thesis or otherwise corroborate claims of their carefully hidden “sources.” Indeed, here is their methodology, proudly proclaimed in the middle of their piece,
How The Times Reported This Story
To write this story, New York Times reporters reviewed documents and conducted several dozen interviews with current and former government officials, members of Congress, legal experts and more
but even here, they identified no one and nothing—not even the “reporters” who did the claimed reviews and interviews, much less any of the persons or documents the authors claimed were consulted. We’re just supposed to meekly take the authors’ word for this.
Of course, Trump demurred, and in his usual blunt, seemingly inflammatory way. As do I; the NYT‘s bit is a long one, and it cites “sources” that, for all we know, are only made-up.
Now to the heart of my post. Quoting Howard Kurtz’ citing of NYT Publisher AG Sulzberger from Kurtz’ own piece on Trump’s objection, Sulzberger (see that? An actual on-the-record source) said
in demonizing the free press as the enemy, simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle…The phrase “enemy of the people” is not just false, it’s dangerous.
Notice that. As Sulzberger knows full well—both with words and grammar being his stock in trade, and from what he learned in his third grade grammar lessons—words that modify nouns limit the class of nouns to a clear subset of that class. Trump has never called the media, or the news media, an enemy of the American people. He has said only that that subset of the news media that is fake news is that enemy.
It’s true enough that Trump has made no bones about his contention that many, if not most, journalists are purveyors of fake news, nor has he hidden his view that many, if not most, news outlets are such purveyors. He’s used no euphemisms in expressing his views of CNN as a routine such purveyor. He also called the NYT a true enemy of the people.
Notice that, though: even in the latter two instances, he’s addressed particular outlets, not “the news.”
On the other hand, Trump has, often, commented favorably on other journalists and news outlets as being quality reporters, “fair” journalists and outlets, including journalists at outlets Trump otherwise disdains. Plainly, not all news media, or individuals within it, are enemies of the people in Trump’s view or commentary.
This is the false and dangerous lie that Sulzberger—one of the influential MFWICs of one of the influential printers of what it’s pleased to call “fit news”—is spreading. Sulzberger deliberately and carefully censored the key part of what Trump said—that modifying phrase, which Trump even emphasized in his tweet—and thereby changed utterly what Sulzberger claims Trump said to fit Sulzberger’s own narrative.
And guys like Howard Kurtz, who claims to know better as a critic of the news media, uncritically repeat the lie.