America’s journal of record, the venerable Grey Lady, has a consistent tic that drives me mad. It also undermines the paper’s famous credibility and detracts from its often excellent investigative reporting. The tic is unrelated to the paper’s commitment to good writing (most of the material in the New York Times is well-written) — it is a determination to appear objective at all costs that often teeters into misinforming readers. Here are two examples that leaped out at me the other day and grabbed me by the throat.
The article, entitled Former Acting Attorney General Testifies About Trump’s Efforts to Subvert Election begins:
WASHINGTON — Jeffrey A. Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Trump administration, has told the Justice Department watchdog and congressional investigators that one of his deputies tried to help former President Donald J. Trump subvert the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the interviews.source
It is very good news that Rosen is speaking, voluntarily, to the Inspector General of the DOJ and a Senate Committee. Only good can come from Rosen confirming details of the depths that Trump was willing to go to to preserve his reign.
The article goes on to describe a Trumpist in the DOJ, Jeffrey Clark, who was working directly with his master to overturn the results of the 2020 election so that Trump could illegally remain in power. Acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, Clark’s boss, asked Clark not to have further meetings with Trump alone. Clark continued to meet with Trump alone. The DOJ had announced, under Barr and under Rosen, that they had found no fraud on a level that could have changed the outcome of the presidential election. Clark pressed the DOJ to change its position to give traction to Trump’s Big Lie about the stolen election he claims to have won in a landslide. Clark drafted a letter to Georgia officials based on this unfounded lie, that he asked Rosen to sign. The New York Times:
Mr. Rosen also described subsequent exchanges with Mr. Clark, who continued to press colleagues to make statements about the election that they found to be untrue, according to a person familiar with the interview.source
“statements that they found to be untrue“
His colleagues “found them to be untrue” these statements Clark was pressuring them to make?
Clarification? Clark wanted them to make statements that the DOJ had investigated and found to be false, baseless, not based in evidence? Statements that some in the DOJ “found to be untrue”? An honest disagreement between colleagues in these highly charged partisan times? The Times, setting new standards for anodyne exposition? Seriously.
Then, as far as clarity, good writing, elegance of language in the service of informing readers:
He also discovered that Mr. Clark had been engaging in unauthorized conversations with Mr. Trump about ways to have the Justice Department publicly cast doubt on President Biden’s victory, particularly in battleground states that Mr. Trump was fixated on, like Georgia. Mr. Clark drafted a letter that he asked Mr. Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators, wrongly asserting that they should void Mr. Biden’s victory because the Justice Department was investigating accusations of voter fraud in the state.
Such a letter would effectively undermine efforts by Mr. Clark’s colleagues to prevent the White House from overturning the election results, and Mr. Rosen and his top deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, rejected the proposal.source
Idea for the copy editor, change one word to make this sentence more clear and more accurate:
falsely asserting that they should void Mr. Biden’s victory because the Justice Department was investigating accusations of voter fraud in the state.
Look, it was false because the DOJ was not investigating accusations of voter fraud in the state when Clark wrote the letter. It was false because Clark knew that there were no ongoing investigations. It was knowingly false, because, in spite of knowing it, and three recounts in Georgia, Clark tried to get his boss to sign the false letter. I understand the Times may want to avoid implying intent on the part of Mr. Fucking Eichmann Clark, but “wrongly” is ambiguous, open-ended and just plain misleading. There are many reasons a person can be wrong, knowingly lying is only one.
Medal for most squeamishly anodyne sentence in the article, with a star for contortion:
Such a letter would effectively undermine efforts by Mr. Clark’s colleagues to prevent the White House from overturning the election results, and Mr. Rosen and his top deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, rejected the proposal.
Or, perhaps just a tad more accurately
The false letter Clark wanted his boss to sign would have put the acting AG on record as knowingly lying to overturn the election Mr. Trump continues to falsely insist he won, in a fucking landslide.
Come on, Grey Lady, we want to believe you’re better than this…