Some retractions don’t quite cover the offense, even reasonably complete retreats. Such is the case for the nasty hit piece on UN ambassador Nikki Haley from the New York Times, deconstructed by Allahpundit this morning. He also noted the retraction, but it’s worth revisiting, especially in the sequence of events in which it developed.
CNN’s Oliver Darcy alerted his Twitter followers that the NYT’s editors had begun to review their reporting, followed not long after by the retraction:
New: The New York Times has updated its story on @nikkihaley: "An earlier version of this article and headline created an unfair impression about who was responsible for the purchase in question." pic.twitter.com/GQg7Bj0qfv
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) September 14, 2018
As a number of people pointed out on Twitter, editors usually review articles before publication, not afterward. Remember the superiority of the “layers of fact checkers and editors” at mainstream media outlets? Good times, good times. This retraction asks readers to believe that realization of the issue came hours after the hit piece’s publication, long after readers complained about the framing of the story around Nikki Haley. The article has a publication date of September 13, although that typically means it got published late at night of that date. Regardless, it was up for at least 12 hours before the editors began to think that it might need a review.
Furthermore, this explanation is at best incomplete, and at worst substantially deceptive. The paper didn’t get new reporting that clarified Haley’s non-role in the spending decision — all they had to do is read the sixth paragraph of the original version of their own story. The editors want to pass this off a poor choice of emphasis, when the editors had every opportunity to realize the problem before publication. It was right there in the story! Discovering the problem only required reading the article for comprehension. And yet, the editors not only allowed the focus to remain on Haley, the headline writer followed suit and the image was selected to highlight it.
One more point to note, too — how did the editors reframe the story after the retraction? While the story notes that the apartment and curtain system were chosen by the Obama administration, the piece never gets around to naming the UN ambassador at the time, Samantha Power, not even to note that she would have benefited from it, as they did with Haley. Here was the lead in the original version:
The State Department spent $52,701 last year buying customized and mechanized curtains for the picture windows in Nikki R. Haley’s official residence as ambassador to the United Nations, just as the department was undergoing deep budget cuts and had frozen hiring.
And here’s the new lead:
The State Department spent $52,701 for customized and mechanized curtains for the picture windows in the new official residence of the ambassador to the United Nations.
So it was news that Haley would benefit from it, but Power wouldn’t have at the time the decision was made? Hmmmm. It also still has the same critical quote from an Obama-era White House official that references Rex Tillerson, who we know now had nothing at all to do with the decision:
“How can you, on the one hand, tell diplomats that basic needs cannot be met and, on the other hand, spend more than $50,000 on a customized curtain system for the ambassador to the U.N.?” asked Brett Bruen, a White House official in the Obama administration.
The new story still doesn’t have any quotes from Trump administration officials, although perhaps they just chose not to participate in this hackery. The story still contains the references to controversial decor spending by Ben Carson, a weird artifact of a story structured to use Haley as yet another example of selfishness within the Trump administration.
In other words, the whole piece was calculated to hammer Haley as a big spender and an example of Trump’s lack of concern over the use of taxpayer dollars. Without it the report doesn’t have any internal consistency, nor does it make much sense as a stand-alone complaint about State Department spending. That makes a mockery of the NYT retraction and its claim that “[t]he article should not have focused on Ms. Haley.” That was its clear purpose all along, and the only reason the editors hit reverse was because the intellectual dishonesty was so egregious that it took flak from other mainstream media outlets.
But, er, don’t say there’s any such thing as media bias, or something. Who are you gonna believe, the NYT or your own lying eyes?