Hey 'New York Times'! You Should Be Ashamed (Again)

Hey 'New York Times'! You Should Be Ashamed (Again)

Linda Qiu

Let’s leave aside for the moment the larger argument that we have an outright fascist running for president who has proposed an entire program of disassembling, even in his own words “canceling” the Constitution and the normal functions of the nation’s government and substituting one-man rule in their place. If you are reading this column, I’m certain you agree that this is hardly the time to be pissing on ourselves just because we have the urinary equipment to do so.

In its never-ending quest to be even-handed in its political coverage, and in the absence of anyone from the Biden administration under indictment or serving prison time, the New York Times on Sunday, in the words of Happy Days, jumped the shark. An article has appeared under the title, “Biden Loves to Tell Tall Tales, We Cut Them Down to Size.” The author of the piece, Linda Qiu, is described in a footnote as “a reporter who specializes in fact-checking statements made by politicians and public figures. She has been reporting and fact-checking public figures for nearly a decade.”

So given all that extensive expertise, what does she provide us to support her allegation of Biden’s “tall tales?” A short list of what any consumer of political news would call mild exaggerations with a touch of typical self-aggrandizement by a regular old-fashioned politician. None of the examples she gives involve illegality or any sort of moral failings, or engage an issue of national importance.

She makes a big deal out of Biden saying he “used to drive an 18-wheeler” by appearing to count the wheels on a school bus he once drove and the wheels on a “cargo truck” he took “a five-hundred-mile trip on,” without bothering to define what a “cargo truck” is, or even how one takes a trip “on” such a vehicle. And just to be even-handed, 18-wheel over the road tractor-trailers, to which Biden clearly referred, are “cargo trucks.”

In further hair-splitting, she appears to call Biden’s claim that he is “first in my family to ever go to college,” a lie by pointing to a quote from Biden’s autobiography that his maternal grandfather was the “only person in the house with a college degree.” Qiu then attempts to say Biden was lying about that by noting that the grandfather’s 1957 obituary said he “attended and played football for Santa Clara College in California,” without confirming that he graduated. Gee, isn’t it too bad she couldn’t have found the 1957 obituary writer and interviewed him about where he got that fact? Or maybe she could have called up Santa Clara College and asked them if they had an “Ambrose Finnegan” listed as either a student or a graduate, so she could nail down once and for all the truth behind Biden’s “tall tale” about his grandfather.

But her exhaustive investigative dissection of Biden’s “tall tales” leads with a claim he made that he had been appointed to the Naval Academy in 1961 by Senator J. Caleb Boggs of Delaware. “It is possible that this nomination occurred, but The New York Times could not verify Mr. Biden’s claim,” Qiu states, making it sound as if the Times is engaging one of the great questions of our age.

Qiu states that the Senator who appointed Biden “started his first term in January of 1961.” He couldn’t have appointed Biden, Qiu indicates, because “if the current deadline is any indication,” members of Congress can submit appointments only until the deadline of January 31…leaving out the fact that he had 28 days between his swearing in and the alleged deadline. She then takes time to note that Biden obviously didn’t attend the Naval Academy because after graduating high school in June, he entered the University of Delaware in the fall. A call to the Delaware Historical Society reveals that no record of Biden’s appointment in 1961 could be found in Boggs’ papers, only the Senator’s appointments in 1962. So, the Biden appointment seemingly couldn’t have been made. Got that?

Appointments to the service academies in the early 1960’s happen to be something that I know quite a bit about. In the same timeframe, 1965, Patsy T. Mink of Hawaii, a freshman Representative who entered Congress on Jan 3, 1965, appointed me to West Point in March of that year. Deadlines for congressional appointments to the service academies were flexible, especially for new members of Congress.

When I read this strained disquisition about whether or not Joe Biden had received an appointment to the Naval Academy, my jaw dropped. What possible reason would Biden have to stretch the truth about a moment like that in his life?

The answer is nothing.

How about that alleged whopper about being the first to go to college in his family? The answer to what Biden might have gained from any of the other so-called “tall tales” the New York Times investigated is nothing. Zero. Nada. Zip.

So, why take the trouble to assign the Times' ace fact-checker with “nearly a decade” of experience to go spelunking through Joe Biden’s so-called “tall tales?” The question of its coverage of this election is an issue the Times will probably have to deal with for decades. Journalism schools should begin preparing now to teach a semester-long class on the gaping black hole in the judgement of Times’ management has the potential to endanger this nation’s existence, should Donald Trump achieve the presidency and stay there for four years, or even the extra four years he appears to be contemplating seizing for himself from his “canceled” Constitution.

You know what would have been more appropriate for the Times to print in the run-up to this election? A reprise of the long piece they ran back in 2017 about why it took them until after the 2016 election to print the word “lie” with respect to the outrageous falsehoods that poured without stop from Donald Trump’s mouth in 2015 and 2016...and ever since, for that matter.

If the New York Times really wanted to be even-handed, they could have published this one: “Let’s compare Trump’s outrageous lies to Biden’s harmless tall tales.”

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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