In the second high-profile instance in less than a month, The New York Times has once again made changes to an article after backlash from leftist critics who did not feel the paper painted the right with a critical enough brush.
In early August, the Times was met with strong criticism from the Left over its straightforward headline on President Trump’s speech on the El Paso and Dayton shootings, in which he urged the country to condemn “in one voice” all forms of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” The Times initially titled its coverage of the speech “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.” But after public lashings from Democratic presidential candidates and other left-leaning readers, the Times altered the headline to read more critically — “Assaulting Hate But Not Guns,” a title that still didn’t appease the Times’ incensed readers.
Following the title meltdown, which the Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet called a “f***ing mess,” the paper held an emergency town hall in which Baquet laid out his “vision” for the way the paper was going to cover the second half of Trump’s term: how the country has become “so divided by Donald Trump,” particularly through “racism.”
On Wednesday, the Times published a piece portraying the Tea Party as supposedly having “unleashed the politics of anger” that lives on in the era of Trump. “The Tea Party Didn’t Get What It Wanted, but It Did Unleash the Politics of Anger,” the loaded headline reads. But after publishing the piece and being met with yet more backlash from its left-wing readers for having not portrayed the Tea Party as enough of a villain, the Times notified readers that the piece has been revised “to include context about attacks on President Barack Obama and racist displays at some Tea Party rallies.”
The Times’ transparent hit-piece begins by describing the Tea Party, a national movement of conservatives who called for a return to more limited government and responsible spending, in the most dramatic and derogatory of terms (formatting adjusted):
In the late summer of 2009, as the recession-ravaged economy bled half a million jobs a month, the country seemed to lose its mind.
Lawmakers accustomed to scheduling town hall meetings where no one would show up suddenly faced shouting crowds of hundreds, some of whom brought a holstered pistol or a rifle slung over the shoulder. One demonstrator at a rally in Maryland hanged a member of Congress in effigy. A popular bumper sticker at the time captured the contempt for the federal bailout of certain homeowners. “Honk if I’m Paying Your Mortgage,” it said.
The Times goes on to brand the rise of the Tea Party as “that summer of rage.” The movement “ignited a revival of the politics of outrage and mistrust in government,” we’re told.
But the overtly critical nature of the piece was not enough for some of the Times’ readers, so the paper added some racially charged lines to give voice to Obama’s “allies”:
One significant limitation to the Tea Party is the contradiction in its DNA: It was a mass uprising based on notions of small-government libertarianism that are popular with think tanks but not so popular with most Americans. And as Mr. Obama’s allies saw the movement, its outrage over the debt and deficit had another purpose: giving cover and a voice to those who wanted to attack the first black president — people who in some cases showed up at rallies waving signs with racist caricatures and references.
As demonstrated by the NYT Politics tweet, the paper was concerned enough about the backlash that it made sure to underscore for its readers that the paper had heard the complaints and changed its coverage to pacify its (left-wing) critics — or, as RealClearInvestigations’ Mark Hemingway put it, let itself “get bullied into changing its coverage.” The change also conveniently falls in line with Baquet’s “vision” of focusing on racism in the era of Trump.
So how are the changes to the Tea Party piece playing among the Times’ readers? Not good enough. “Sometimes, I feel so hurt by you guys,” tweeted one disappointed reader. “I know that’s a weird emotion to have towards ‘a newspaper.’ But we NEED you to cover racists ACCURATELY. And you just refuse to. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why. And it hurts. Your complicity hurts.” Another agreed: “Same here. Failure to cover racists accurately gives them the space to thrive.” Another said it even more concisely: “This was a pretty big oops … ”