The Borking of Bannon — or Why Trump’s Breitbart Pick Bests the New York Times’ Arthur Sulzberger
The New York Times finds President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as counselor to the president to be so alarming that it devoted both its lead front page news article yesterday, a second front-page news article, and its lead editorial to the development, airing the worry that, as one of the news articles put it, Mr. Bannon “will bring anti-Semitic, nationalist and racist views to the West Wing.”
The entire situation reminded me of the attack on Judge Robert Bork, an honorable and decent man, of whom Senator Edward Kennedy claimed, “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution.”
The “racism” attack worked to block Bork’s elevation to the Supreme Court. Now it’s being tried against Mr. Bannon, with the additional charge of antisemitism.
The Times frames its front-page story using the technique of just passing along the denunciation of “critics.” It’s as irresponsible as Donald Trump passing along what he’s “hearing” about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. If the “critics” are correct, then the Times shouldn’t need to hide behind them. And if not, their stories are a slanderous smear campaign.
Yet a third news article about the Bannon issue in the Times reiterates, “Critics, including some conservatives formerly associated with it, have denounced Breitbart [the media company Bannon led] in its current incarnation as a hate site steeped in misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.”
The effort by the Times to depict Mr. Bannon as the second coming of Adolph Hitler and David Duke initially struck me as odd. I say that primarily because when my book JFK, Conservative came out, Mr. Bannon had me on his radio show. He was gracious, friendly and supportive. He’d clearly read the book, which has plenty of material about Kennedy and Israel and the Soviet Jews, and which doesn’t exactly leave it a mystery where I am coming from on those issues. I assume he realized I was Jewish from my biography indicating past work for the Forward and the Jerusalem Post.
In the past few days, additional testimony and information has emerged. Ben Shapiro, a critic of Breitbart‘s who left the site with some acrimony, nevertheless wrote: “I have no evidence that Bannon’s a racist or that he’s an anti-Semite; the Huffington Post’s blaring headline ‘WHITE NATIONALIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE’ is overstated, at the very least.” No mention of that in the New York Times.
As David Bernstein has pointed out, the Breitbart site also includes totally philosemitic and innocuous content, such as this story headlined: “1000 Attend Giant Shabbat Dinner in Tel Aviv for Global Shabbat Project.” No mention of that in the New York Times.
It’s interesting, too, that the New York Times that is so suddenly on newfound hair-trigger alert for antisemitism would publish, in the same issue as all the paranoid coverage of Mr. Bannon, an article headlined: “76 Experts Urge Donald Trump to Keep Iran Deal.” Among these “experts” are Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, whose view of the “Israel lobby” was endorsed by David Duke, and whose book and Harvard Kennedy School paper were widely condemned by Jewish groups for trafficking in long-discredited and harmful stereotypes of Jewish influence. Yet the Times news article doesn’t even mention their involvement, let alone their sordid history. It’s a double standard — almost enough to make one think that what the Times is worried about isn’t antisemitism, but Republicans in the White House.
As a thought experiment to better understand what is going on here, let us imagine what would happen if Hillary Clinton had been elected and installed the chairman of the New York Times Company, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., as counselor to the president.
And then imagine if some news organization held Mr. Sulzberger to the same standard as Mr. Bannon — blaming him for the craziest denizen of the comments section, and for anything even remotely associated with the publication and its history.
An article about it would read something like this:
Critics are furious about President-elect Clinton’s appointment to a top White House post of the publisher of the New York Times, a publication that kept its bureau open in Nazi Germany with a swastika flag flying out front while downplaying the news of the Holocaust being committed against the Jews of Europe.
In more recent days, the Times has editorially advocated for a deal that would give $150 billion to the government of Iran, which denies the Holocaust and has promised to wipe Israel of the map while funding terrorist groups that target Israeli civilians and Jewish targets overseas.
Sulzberger’s newspaper repeatedly dwells on the Jewish background of criminals; has called for cutting aid to the Israeli military, a position far outside the American bipartisan political mainstream; recently apologized after likening a drug dealer to a rabbi; described a character in a news feature as a “decorous Jew”; and editorialized against accommodating Orthodox Jewish women in New York public swimming pools by complaining about their “strong odor.”
And that’s just the Jewish aspect of it; if one wanted to go to other places, like sexism or racism, one might note that the Times recently fired its first-ever woman executive editor after she complained she was paid less than her male predecessor; that the newspaper is the subject of a lawsuit by two black woman employees alleging that it “has become an environment rife with discrimination based on age, race and gender”; that the union that represents Times employees recently completed an analysis that found “Union-represented minority employees at The New York Times earn 10 percent less than the average wage and women earn about 7 percent less than what men in the union are paid.”
And that’s not even getting into the swamp of the New York Times comments section, where articles about Israeli settlements lend themselves to reader comments like, “Criticism is not enough; end all aid to this country” (634 thumbs up from Times readers) or, “This event is consistent with Israeli behavior for decades. The Israeli government has a plan and it does NOT include a Palestinian State. They have paid lip service to the absurd ‘Peace Process’ while slowly colonizing the West Bank and forcing the native population into smaller and smaller isolated enclaves. They are confident that their control over Congress will allow them to treat this, and any other President, with utter contempt. The only way to stop this nonsense is for the American public to rise up in anger and demand that there be consequences” (456 thumbs up from Times readers). You think the Breitbart comments section is bad? It’s practically a Hadassah chapter compared to the New York Times reader comments.
The whole thing is a perfect example of the New York Times’ extremely selective outrage when it comes to antisemitism, and of the Times’ hypocrisy in holding other publications to standards that the Times itself does not meet.
If anyone has any actual evidence that Bannon is an antisemite or a racist, please send it along. I’m not, personally, a big reader of Breitbart, and I’m for free trade and more immigration, unlike many of that site’s readers. My own reading tastes, both in tone and substance, run more toward The Algemeiner and the other papers I write for, not Breitbart.
But on the basis of the evidence presented (and omitted) by the Times in its assault yesterday, given a choice between the two on the basis of which is better or worse for the Jews, I’d take Bannon in the White House over Sulzberger in a twinkling.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.