The “The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage,” pompously sub-titled, “The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World’s Most Authoritative Newspaper,” has always inveighed against the paper publishing vulgar or obscene words. In particular, it has never allowed the printing of the word “fuck” or any version of it anywhere in the paper. On one occasion, the Times stage reviewer had to review a play with “fuck” in the title without ever revealing what the title was.
Ethics Alarms has consistently held that 1) if a vulgar word is a substantive part of the news story, then a newspaper should print the word. Codes like “the f-word,” “F-bomb,” and “f—” convey the word fuck, so why not just print it? The practice is juvenile (remember the camp song “Shaving cream”, in which a line that was set up by a previousl line rhyming with “shit” and suggesting “shit” would substitute “having cream! Hilarious! Well, if you were 11…) and yes, the position here is the same regarding so- called taboo words like “nigger.” In 2015, there was a huge uproar after Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison muttered “Fuck that nigger” behind his handinto a live microphone after answering a post-Final Four game news conference question about Wisconsin player Frank Kaminsky. Yet despite the fact that the words he used were the issue, no newspapers, and certainly no TV news outlet, actually reported the words. I wrote,
It took me 15 minutes and visits to six web sites before I could find out exactly what it was that Harrison said. Most sources vaguely reported that he had uttered “an expletive and a slur,” or plunged readers into a game of “Hangman” with the statement being reported as “_ _ _ _ that _ _ _ _ _ _.” The Washington Post settled on “[Expletive] that [N-word].” Which expletive??? This is ridiculous, and as inexcusably bad journalism as refusing to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that caused the Paris massacre. The story is about what Harrison said, and it is impossible to inform readers about the incident without saying exactly what was said.
Nevertheless, the Times style and practice rules are the Times style and practice rules…norms, in other words. Imagine my surprise, then to find the words “fucked’ not only in the Times, but on its April 9th front page, twice.
The reason, of course, is this “fuck” was uttered, allegedly, by Presient Trump, and it is the Times’s mission to embarrass, impugn, and denigrate the President while doing everything in its power to inflame sufficient numbers of citizens against him that he can be removed from office. During the 2016 campaign, the Times announced that preventing his election uniquely justified suspending journalism standards of objectivity, and now it has declared by its actions that its norms mean nothing if they impede the paper’s “Get Trump” agenda.
This, you may note, comes from the same paper that repeatedly references the “resistance” talking point that Trump dangerously breaches “democratic norms.”
Yet the Times cannot legitimately claim Trump said “fucked”(the infamous line was “I’m fucked.”) The Mueller report says that a witness said that the President said “I’m fucked.” That’s hearsay. Maybe the President did say that—I don’t doubt it—but the fact is that the Times doesn’t know that he did, because it wasn’t present, hasn’t spoken with the witness, and hasn’t heard tapes of that witness talking to the investigators. How odd that the only instance in its history that the New York Times, the self-proclaimed gold standard for professional journalism, would decide to violate its standards as a family newspaper and print “fuck” was an instance when journalistic standards dictate that the utterance of the word is not established fact, but an allegation only. How can that be?
It can be because the objective is to bring down President Trump by any means necessary, and if what the Times previously held was unacceptable to report explicitly–for example, when then Vice-President Biden was caught telling Obama that passing the Affordable Care Act was a “big fucking deal”—had to be ignored to do maximum damage, then it just had to be ignored, that’s all.
Because I know that the Times is a paper of integrity, I will now expect that all of the other words previously banned from explicit reference in the pages of the Times will now be published in all their glory if they are material to a news story–fuck, cocksucker, cunt, faggot, nigger of course, and the rest.
Well, at least if they can be used to bring down President Trump, anyway.
(The Ethics Alarms post relevant to this issue—the Ethics Alarms “fuck” files— can be reviewed here)
19 thoughts on “WTF? The New York Times Again Violates Its Own Standards Because Bringing Down The President Is More Important”
It should be noted that the “nigger” Harrison wanted “fucked,” (2014-2015 NCAA Player Of The Year U.W. Badger Frank Kaminsky) happens to be, according to all reports, white.
Just hearsay, Paulie.
I should know better than to trust my lyin’ eyes.
Having this POSTER within 7 feet/2.1336 meters hasn’t helped…
Yeah, that poster is just wrong on so many levels. You know you can’t trust your own experiences, objective reality, and facts. Last I heard, Kaminsky as a two foot long, 35 pound aardvark. Therefore, the poster should look like this:
Kind of weird he didn’t call the Big Pollack a cracker, or honkey, or something. Why “nigger?” We’re told black guys can call other black guys niggers (for some unknown reason) so I guess they can call anyone a nigger. Kind of weird, though. You’d think people who strenuously object to certain behavior wouldn’t engage in it, non?
”You’d think people who strenuously object to certain behavior wouldn’t engage in it, non?”
Consider my approach: When I stopped expecting it to make sense, voilà!-it started making perfect sense.
Brilliant. I’d give that a big Gomer Pyle “Gooooleee!”
The ambiguity in not using the words is it can mislead the reader into thinking worse words were used than was the case.
I will cite the example of the St Louis police. Three officers made the mistake of picking an undercover officer as the one to beat the crap out of for fun. But that’s not the relevant part to your point.
Multiple news outlets said “expletive filled racist rants” was the term used. Leaving it to the imagination that the word “nigger” was bantied about.
Nope, never was. The Atlantic doesn’t shy away, avoiding that confusion.
As they did with the Zimmerman 911 tape, where NBC claimed Zimmerman called Martin ‘a racial epithet’, they bleeped out ‘assholes’ in the line ‘these assholes always get away’ and people’s imaginations ran wild,
I spent decades dealing with all manner of “assholes” and I know that it is a behavior that is prevalent in people of all colors, sexes, and national origins. And if called to do so I would testify to same, under oath of course, in any court.
These guys have nowhere near the stamina of the ones who covered LBJ.
Great post. The report containing this hearsay is Exhibit A in why the report should never have been made public if there was no finding of criminality, and perhaps even in why the Special Counsel should never have even been appointed.
I suppose if Trump had reviewed every single document that was submitted to the Special Counsel per his request or subpoena, couldn’t he have simply have claimed executive privilege and thrown this guy’s memo, or whatever it was, into a separate pile? What administration has ever been subjected to such a lengthy fishing expedition, resulting only in a four hundred page report saying “We didn’t find anything, but here’s a bunch of stuff we think people who like this guy should know because we sure don’t like this guy.”
I’m beginning to think Robert Muehler has handed Trump four more years beginning in 2020 and also handed the GOP a substantial majority in both houses of Congress as of the same date.
So the Times can’t even confirm, other than a third-party report, that Trump said the words attributed to him. In spite of this, they were happy to break a decades-long tradition (worthy or not), because the sentence makes Trump look bad. And make no mistake, that sentence does make Trump look bad in the context to which it is attributed.
It shouldn’t, though. Profanity in private is common among presidents and their retainers and assistants. What is uncommon is an empowered law enforcement official producing such profanity in a report to the Attorney General as if it is particularly damning. In this case, it’s hard to blame Trump for feeling like his presidency was in jeopardy — it manifestly was, and even knowing he was innocent of the crimes being investigated would not be enough to assuage fears he was being railroaded.
One of the problems with the Mueller report is that it presents only one side of the argument — that of prosecutors who’s stated purpose is to find illegal activity and look at evidence from the perspective of possible criminality. It is not the duty of the prosecutor to produce an equal volume of exculpatory evidence to balance the argument. What if Trump said, shortly thereafter, that he regrets that statement? Not likely, to be sure, but there is no more direct evidence of one than the other.
That sure is what it looks like. Apparently, it’s more important to spell out Trump’s profanity than that of Joe Biden or any other Democrat, because apparently, these others are good by comparison to Trump.
I’ll say this for Trump — he has exposed both the Left and the media for exactly what they are. It has been ugly, unethical and damaging to the country, but it sure is good information to have when considering a vote for these people.
Great comment to a great post, Glenn. This “I’m fucked” being in the report and the news constitutes the absolute nadir of the entire, still ongoing, Collusion Hoax.
And where’s the outrage for the Clinton campaign purchasing the “dossier” from Russians and the FBI and DOJ using it to get FISA warrants and having a Special Prosecutor appointed, and have the media swallowing it whole? Who is it that’s a threat to Democracy? Where does Democracy die?
Still waiting for prison stints for the perpetrators of those crimes…
Thanks. And it’s certainly the nadir of the report, if not the entire investigation.
“Profanity in private is common among presidents and their retainers and assistants.”
I’d wager it’s also quite common among 99.9997% of the people who are pretending that it is somehow incredibly super-significant in this one instance.