New York Times Pulls Out All the Stops to Push Iran Deal
Seven to two is the lopsided score of opinion pieces the New York Times has published this month about the Iran nuclear deal.
That’s seven pieces in favor of President Donald Trump keeping the deal, and just two that oppose it, by my count.
As a press critic, I sometimes get feedback that I should focus my attention on the Times news columns rather than its opinion section. After all, how can you have a biased opinion? Opinions are supposed to be opinionated.
Even so, it’s hard to see the unprecedented Times onslaught of cheerleading for the Iran nuclear deal as anything other than the newspaper, as an institution, making a priority of preserving a deal that Israel and its American allies view as a problem. Over the 12-day period from October 2 to October 13, the Times ran seven opinion articles advocating for the deal, which grants Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for unverifiable promises to pause development of nuclear weapons.
The flurry of pro-Iran deal pieces began October 2, with an article by Jeremy Bernstein headlined, “One Very Big Reason Not to Scrap the Iranian Nuclear Deal.”
The Times then ran not just one but two unsigned staff editorials in favor of keeping the deal. An October 5 staff editorial was headlined, “Why Decertifying The Iran Nuclear Deal Would Be a Bad Idea.” In case anyone missed that one, it was followed rapidly by an October 7 staff editorial headlined, “Mr. Trump, Don’t Scrap the Iran Deal.”
Going for saturation coverage, or maybe overkill, the Times followed those with an October 8 opinion piece under the byline of Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo. That piece was headlined, with accuracy that may have not entirely been intended, “False Assumptions About the Iran Nuclear Deal.”
Not one but two Obama administration officials had Times articles in favor of keeping the deal in place: Wendy R. Sherman’s October 9 piece headlined, “Trump Is Going to Make a Huge Mistake on the Iran Deal,” and Antony J. Blinken’s October 13 article headlined, “Trump Alienates America’s Allies and Hands Iran a Victory.”
And as if all that weren’t enough, Times columnist Roger Cohen weighed in with an October 11 piece headlined, “Trump’s Iran Derangement.” That article claimed Trump “will have done a disservice to Israeli security,” which is another example of Cohen and the Times claiming they know better than Israel’s voters and elected government what is best for Israel’s security.
Against this cascade of columns, this pile of pieces, the Times offered a mere two — just two — articles offering the opposing view. An Israeli minister and former ambassador, Michael Oren, published an article on October 7 headlined, “The Iran Nuclear Deal Isn’t Worth Saving.” And Times columnist Bret Stephens had a fine piece on October 13 headlined, “Donald Trump Takes a Hostage.”
Another Times piece, headlined, “President Trump’s Failing Leadership on Iran” and written by Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, appeared on October 6. I read it carefully twice and couldn’t find in it a clear statement about whether Trump should or shouldn’t decertify the Iranian nuclear deal. It seemed to be making other points related to Iran policy and arguing that those points were more significant. I haven’t counted the Pletka piece as either one of the seven pieces in favor of keeping the deal or as one of the two pieces against it. Even if it really belongs in the anti-deal camp, it still would leave the count at seven to three, meaning the Times by the most generous reckoning published more than twice as many pieces in favor of the deal as against it. Not exactly “fair and balanced.”
If the deal falls apart and relations between Iran and the US deteriorate badly enough, the Times might have to cancel its lucrative “Times Journeys” trips on which customers can pay more than $7,000 apiece for the privilege of being accompanied by a Times journalist on a luxury expedition through the Islamic Republic. Maybe the editorial tilt has nothing to do with the travel business, which brings in revenue that the financially-strained Times company badly needs. But the company’s choice to turn journalists into paid tour guides of Iran sure runs the risk of making readers wonder. Whatever the motive behind the Times tilt, the result is disappointing to readers who don’t share the Times‘ enthusiasm for the deal.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.