New York Times Fail

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Last week, Mother Jones alum and current Talking Points Memo news editor Justin Elliott nagged and embarrassed the New York Times into running an editors’ note explaining how badly it messed up a front-page story on alleged “recidivism” of Guantanamo Bay detainees. But this weekend, the Times was at it again, totally blowing yet another torture-related front-pager. Once again, the Times has obtained exclusive information about a politically controversial issue, and once again, the Times has simply regurgitated right-wing spin on what it obtained. (Sound familiar?)

This time around, the Times has obtained three emails (PDF) sent by Jim Comey, a Deputy Attorney General in the Bush administration, in April and May 2005. Any fair reading of these emails suggests that Justice Department lawyers faced enormous amounts of pressure from the White House to rule that the torture techniques the administration was already using were legal. Read the emails and see for yourself.

The Times seems to think that the news in the emails was that some right-wing Bush administration officials who were once thought not to have approved torture may have actually approved torture. Shocking, I know. It’s almost as if the story was leaked to the Times by someone who wanted to promote the Bush-Cheney line on torture: “we were assured it was all legal.” But the White House, of course, had all all the power, and pushed for exactly the opinions it wanted.

Comey even predicted in his emails that the officials who were demanding the legal backing at the time would later claim they had just innocently followed freely-given legal advice. “I told him the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the shit hit the fan. Rather they would simply say they had only asked for an opinion,” Comey wrote in the April 28 email. That’s exactly what happened. But the Times left that comment for the bottom of its story, and spun the lead and the headline so much as to make it seem like they were writing about a different set of emails entirely. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at this behavior from a newspaper that won’t call torture torture, but it’s still disappointing. Marcy Wheeler, Glenn Greenwald, and Andrew Sullivan have more.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate