Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
In his first week in office, President Joe Biden has issued a series of executive orders, many of which are reversing orders signed by former President Donald Trump. In response, The New York Times editorial board issued a vague declaration that Biden needs to "ease up on the executive orders" and turn to legislating, while largely ignoring the context behind most of the actions.
This criticism from the paper of record has already had a ripple effect, with Fox News seizing on the editorial to continue pushing disingenuous criticisms of Biden.
The New York Times editorial, titled "Ease up on Executive Actions, Joe," offers its core, contradicting argument in the subheadline: "President Biden is right to not let his agenda be held hostage, but legislating through Congress is a better path." The analysis presented in the editorial appears to be little more than a nod to the conventional wisdom that passing legislation through Congress is preferable to issuing executive orders, but this argument makes little sense when actually looking at many of the actions presented in the editorial.
The Times' examples include ending Trump's Muslim travel ban, canceling the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and stopping construction of the border wall -- all moves that simply undo Trump's own executive actions. The article also makes little mention of the more than 200 executive orders signed by Trump in four years -- most of which were cheered by Republicans -- or the obstruction and lack of willingness to compromise that Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have repeatedly displayed.
Now, Fox News figures are seizing on the Times' editorial as vindication for their bad-faith complaints about Biden using executive orders, taking the opportunity to revel in the fact that "even The New York Times" is criticizing Biden.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy marveled, "Do you know who's upset with this? Do you know who's upset with Joe Biden doing so many? The New York Times!"
On America's Newsroom, co-anchor Bill Hemmer began the show by saying, "The New York Times says, 'Ease up on the executive orders.'" Co-anchor Dana Perino laughed and cited right-wing propagandist Ben Shapiro, who she said suggested in his podcast that Biden was ruling like a king.
The New York Times' tendency to default to the status quo and defend conventional norms poses a danger amid high-stakes crises presented by issues like climate change and the coronavirus. Legacy media frequently shape the media landscape, and these moves can inadvertently play into the hands of bad actors, leaving a damaging trail of misinformation in their wake.