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Former NYT Executive Editor Tells Politico: The Times Gives Hillary Clinton Unfair Scrutiny

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Former NYT Executive Editor Tells Politico: The Times Gives Hillary Clinton Unfair Scrutiny

New York Times Building

This article originally appeared in Media Matters.

According to Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Jill Abramson, the former New York Times executive editor, said in a recent interview that she agreed with Media Matters founder David Brock that the Times has given an unfair “level of scrutiny” to Hillary Clinton.

Over the past year, the Times has repeatedly bungled reporting on Hillary Clinton’s use of email, falsely claiming in a July report that Clinton was under criminal investigation, a story for which they issued numerous corrections. The Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized the paper for publishing a “sensational” story with “major journalistic problems.” In response to that report and several other issues with the paper’s journalism David Brock called on the Times to commission a review of its reporting on Clinton.

Politico’s Glenn Thrush reported March 21 that Abramson, in an interview, said she “agree[d]” with Brock that the Times gave the Clintons “an unfair ‘level of scrutiny,'” saying Hillary Clinton “‘does get more scrutiny” than other candidates – especially male candidates.'” From Politico:

A couple of years back, a friend of Hillary Clinton’s told me the candidate-to-be was “disappointed” that the first woman to edit the New York Times — veteran investigative reporter Jill Abramson — wasn’t more sympathetic to her plight as a feminist pioneer in politics.

In fact, both the candidate and her more volatile spouse went a lot further, venting to people around them that they saw the country’s most powerful paper as a kind of special prosecutor in a blue plastic bag, whose top editors were bent on scouring them with an alacrity not directed at other politicians (“They are out to get us,” the former president told a friend more recently).

No way, says Abramson, whose personal association with the Clintons goes back nearly 40 years. (Little-known fact: the woman who led coverage of the Clintons at the Times for a decade — as Washington bureau chief, and then as executive editor — briefly worked as a consultant on one of Bill Clinton’s campaigns in Arkansas.) But Abramson lingers on the larger point of media fairness to Hillary Clinton, and gingerly concedes something few editors would ever admit.

“She does get more scrutiny” than other candidates – especially male candidates, Abramson told me during a 50-minute interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast last week. When I asked her if Clinton’s arch-defender David Brock had a point when he lashed the Times for giving the Clintons an unfair “level of scrutiny,” she interrupted – to agree.

“Yeah, I do,” said Abramson – who was ousted in 2014 after reportedly complaining that her compensation package was inferior to that of her male predecessor, Bill Keller.

“[W]e, for some reason, expect total purity from a woman candidate,” added Abramson, who rose to the top job in 2011. “I did not feel, during my regime, that we were giving her way more scrutiny than anyone else.” But, she said, “Where I think Hillary Clinton faces, you know, certainly more of a burden is that the controversies she’s been in are immediately labeled, you know, Travel-gate or Email-gate… if you actually asked people what about any of these controversies bothers them, they don’t know anything specific about any of them.”


And Abramson isn’t overly impressed by the one Clinton storyline getting the most attention: the lingering probe into the former secretary of state’s “homebrew” email server during her Foggy Bottom tenure. Like Whitewater, the scandal was uncovered by a New York Times reporter; like Whitewater, it is regarded as a deus ex machina by Republicans facing political gloom; and like Whitewater, it will likely turn out to be more froth than flood, in Abramson’s view. “I won’t say nothing – but very little,” she said, referring to the sum significance of Clinton’s scandals.

When I asked if the Times email stories (executed after her departure, in 2015) were “a big deal,” Abramson – who has taken pains not to criticize her former paper or its current editors – paused.

“It depends on, you know, what your definition of “big deal” is, but I’m not going to play Bill Clinton for you here,” she said, referring to the former president’s infamous what-is-is monologue during his Monica Lewinsky deposition. “The issue, to me, that’s at the crux is that everything that we know that was classified was classified after the fact, after the emails were sent. And so, why is that a big deal? And the fact that she had this private email is something that, you know, I’ve read widely, a lot of people in the government – Colin Powell, let’s face it, got much bigger speaking fees than Hillary did.”

Photo: Flickr user Scott Beale.


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  1. The lucky one March 22, 2016

    It’s not that HRC has received too much scrutiny but rather that the others have received too little. Despite all the free publicity given Trump by the corporate media we have seen very little investigative energy directed his way.

    1. Bob Eddy March 22, 2016

      No, its both. There is really no legitimate reason to cover pseudoscadals. Do your job as a journalist. Investigate the issue and if no coaberating evidence is found treat it for what it is…a rumor.

      1. The lucky one March 23, 2016

        The real problem is there is very little investigative reporting done in the US, virtually none by any of the large newspapers or media outlets. Greg Palast, Matt Taibbi and a few others do great work but they are pretty much freelancers and you’ll find little if any of their work in the mainstream media.

        1. Bob Eddy March 23, 2016

          Its all entertainment. No one asks “is this true?” They ask “will our audience like this.” Before Reagan there was an FCC rule that required all broadcasters to provide access to an opposing point of view. This tended to keep things in check. If you lied, someone was going to call you on it and you were required to provide them air time.

    2. dpaano March 22, 2016

      And there’s SO MUCH to be said for his background…..so much more that needs to be brought out to the public and isn’t.

      1. latebloomingrandma March 22, 2016

        Why is the media not harping about his tax returns? They sure went after Romney, and he supposedly is not as rich as Trump.

        1. FireBaron March 23, 2016

          That’s because THE DONALD is a New Yorker. That automatically makes him a victim of Federal Prosecution in their eyes.

        2. dpaano March 23, 2016

          Because they are too busy harping on Hillary to pay much attention to the inaccuracies spouted by Trump.

  2. plc97477 March 22, 2016

    I keep getting come-ons in the mail to order the NY times but with their unfairness, their lies and their pandering I will not order it. They lost me when they sat on a story to save baby bushes butt.

    1. FT66 March 22, 2016

      They lost me as well since their writings turned to tabloid and not real news we used get from them.

      1. dpaano March 22, 2016

        Unfortunately, a lot of the regular old newspapers have turned into tabloids instead of reporting REAL news. It’s a sad state of affairs and one must question who actually “owns” the newspaper. Apparently, newspapers have stopped being nonpartisan in nature!

  3. I of John March 22, 2016

    The Grey Lady has a long way to go to rescue the paper’s image. They have been obviously askew in coverage for some time. Admitting the problem is a start though.

  4. A. D. Reed March 22, 2016

    I have read the Times for 40 years, beginning in the 1970s as a New Yorker after college, and since the mid-90s online as an exile in North Carolina. One thing that has been obvious to me over the past 23 years is that the paper’s publishers — and through them, many of its editors — have always loathed the Clintons, as people and as politicians and, especially, as New Yorkers.
    “Not one of us” was a common whispered description of them during the nineties, “us” being the Upper East Side corporate power establishment that for generations has absorbed interlopers, white trash, disgraced convicts, robber barons, and gold-digging parvenus–as long as they kowtow to the manners and mores of the clique.
    Bill never could, would, or needed to; not only does he have the common touch and could therefore bypass The Grey Lady’s imprimatur, but by being smarter, cooler, and more successful than they permitted, he was free to laugh in their faces. “A scholarship student. Really!”
    The editors transferred their disdain to Hillary, who also left them to stew in their unending carpings as she ran twice for Senate and served admirably as Secretary of State — and is well on her way to the presidency. “An adopted New Yorker, not even a Manhattanite, with Bubba for a husband. Really!”
    Amazing that someone from The Old Grey Bitch finally admitted the paper’s bias.

  5. Bob Eddy March 22, 2016

    The “FBI investigating Clinton” story turned investigstion turned out to be untrue, of course, but it served it’s purpose. The right wing propaganda machine and every follower of it still insist that she is under investigation though no evidence has been provided to prove it. Only “anonymous sources close to the investigstion.” Long after this pseudoscandal is gone they will be convinced that there was a cover up. Twenty five years of accusations, character assasinations, rumors, misrepretations and outright lies and zero indictments with zero convictions. That is the real story.

  6. Otto T. Goat March 22, 2016

    One bitter shrew sticking up for another.

    1. iamproteus March 22, 2016

      Of all the accusations leveled at Hillary over the years, please list all those that have resulted in a conviction or trial….or, for that matter, even an indictment.

      1. Otto T. Goat March 22, 2016

        That’s a hilarious standard you have.

        1. 788eddie March 22, 2016

          iamproteus. threw you a challenge, Otto.

          Time to put up, or shut up.

          The rest of us are waiting…

        2. iamproteus March 22, 2016

          Otto, you never fail to disappoint: given an opportunity to engage in an intelligent way, you choose to respond with unmitigated ignorance and grammar-school deflection. If it weren’t for the fact that your mindset is dangerous, you would be funny.

          1. Otto T. Goat March 22, 2016

            Close Clinton associates and donors have been convicted of felonies, which I’m sure you believe shows how bad people try to take advantage of two innocents.

          2. iamproteus March 22, 2016

            You must have VERY long arms, Otto, because that is quite a reach! Perhaps you could enlighten us as to the circumstances under which your uncle became an unwilling guest of the state. Hmmm?

          3. iamproteus March 22, 2016

            Now back to my original request which you so conveniently ignored:
            Of all the accusations leveled at Hillary over the years, please list all those that have resulted in a conviction or trial….or, for that matter, even an indictment.

        3. iamproteus March 23, 2016

          Otto, where have you gone? Are you desperately searching for something? Or, more likely, you realize that you have nothing to offer to back up your BS and are now hiding behind yet another hastily contrived screen name?

      2. lilyhammer March 23, 2016

        Or even in a clear, coherent statement of what she did that was so wrong that it could possibly justify the amount of ink spilt.

        What was Whitewater supposed to be about?

        She had a private email server, which apparently broke no laws or rules. Apparently, so did others in her situation. So why 70 articles and blog posts a month at the WP? And so many false/misleading headlines at the NYT?

        1. dpaano March 23, 2016

          And NOTHING about Trumps so-called “scandals.” They seem to play down his foibles and spend most of their time on Hillary! People do NOT know half of the things that Trump has done and they have NO idea that most of the ideas he’s come up with are not doable even for a president! Why this seems to be swept under the rug is ridiculous!

    2. dpaano March 22, 2016

      Typical response from a conservative! Just because a woman sticks up for another woman…that makes her a “bitter shrew?” Seriously…..if so, what do you call a man who sticks up for another man???? But, I supposed that’s different, right?

  7. FireBaron March 23, 2016

    This all started because the Clintons refused to suck up to the NYT when Bill took the oath of office. This made him the first Democratic President since Woodrow Wilson to not grant the Grey Lady favored press status over everyone else. So, in retaliation, the NYT editorial staff went after everything the Clintons were associated with, regardless of the validity of any of the claims.

  8. lilyhammer March 23, 2016

    I wish I could believe that the NYT hates the Clintons because they won’t suck up or aren’t “real” New Yorkers. I think the truth is that reporters and editors look at the Clintons and see dollar signs.

    There is a built in readership of Republicans and left-wing Democrats for any story suggesting that the Clintons are criminals, ethically challenged, or just icky losers. Such stories mean guaranteed clicks, views, and advertising dollars.

    The insinuations of wrongdoing in the stories are remembered but not the fact that they lack substance and lead nowhere. And the very number of the stories justify more stories.

    It’s a racket.


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