(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

New York Times reporter just demonstrated some astonishing false equivalency

The NYT's White House reporter calls the Clinton campaign liars, but was hesitant to use that word with Trump


Taylor Link
October 25, 2017 7:25PM (UTC)

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman likely wished sometime Tuesday that she had joined her colleague Glenn Thrush in retiring from Twitter.

The White House correspondent for the Times tweeted a link to a big Washington Post story. That story focused on the DNC having hired an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, which hired ex-British spy Christopher Steele to compile the now-infamous dossier on Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia. In tweeting the story, Haberman also accused the DNC and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign of lying "with sanctimony."

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The tweet was not well-received by Democrats, especially Clinton supporters. Many noted that Haberman appeared to be applying a different standard to Clinton and Democrats than to Trump and his cabal of miscreants. In the past, Haberman has been hesitant to use the word "lied" when describing Trump and his administration's behavior. She avoided using the word when discussing the administration's false claim that the presidential inauguration was larger than who turned out for President Barack Obama's inauguration crowd. 

By tweeting that the DNC lied about the dossier, Haberman also lended credibility to a right-wing, reactionary view that this story had major implications on the Russia investigation.

Conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity ran with it, somehow implying this was the real scandal involving Russia — as opposed to the allegation that Trump colluded with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election.

Although information about the dossier's funding is newsworthy, the story had already been broken earlier this year. CNN reported in January that the author of the study, Christopher Steele, was "initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries . . . Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton."

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Haberman's tweet suggested there was a grand conspiracy to conceal the truth about the dossier's funding, but that was already known to the public. Sure, maybe the exact details were still in the dark, but special counsel Robert Mueller was already operating under the presumption that Republicans and Democrats were involved in this opposition research anyway. Regardless, it was clear that Steele's dossier came in the form of an opposition research campaign. Opposition research is inherently done by an opposing party, a person or group that is adverse to the subject of the research.

It's not that Haberman — and the media at large — was deliberately trying to compare the Clinton campaign's actions to the Trump campaign's shady dealings with Russia. It's that her tweet failed to provide any context and created a false equivalency that Republicans have fed off of and exploited for years.


Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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