“We Were In A Headless-Chicken Phase”: New York Times Reporter Rebuked By Paper For Anti-Trump Tirade on CNN

“We were in a headless-chicken phase, and yes, it’s the president’s fault, it is not China’s fault. You know, the head of the Chinese CDC was on the phone to Robert Redfield on Jan. 1, again on Jan. 8, and the two agencies were talking on Jan. 19. The Chinese had a test on Jan. 13; the Germans had a test on Jan. 16. We fiddled around for two months, we had a test on March 5 and it didn’t work. We didn’t have 10,000 people tested until March 15.”

He went on to lambast the “incompetent leadership” at the CDC and called for its director Dr. Robert Redfield to “resign.”  He also attacked President Trump as “the same guy who said inject yourself with disinfectant” and that his “grasp of the science” isn’t even “at a third-grade level.”

In a more serious charge, he claimed “suppression from the top- I mean, the real coverup was the person in this country who was saying, you know, ‘This is not an important virus, the flu is worse, it’s all going to go away, it’s nothing,. And that encouraged everybody around him to say, ‘It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing.'”

The Times issued a statement that

“In an interview with Christiane Amanpour today, Donald McNeil, Jr. went too far in expressing his personal views. His editors have discussed the issue with him to reiterate that his job is to report the facts and not to offer his own opinions. We are confident that his reporting on science and medicine for The Times has been scrupulously fair and accurate.”

What is interesting is that Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple criticized McNeil’s comments as outside of the parameters for such interviews, saying “Such activism, after all, is extreme even for a veteran newsman exercising his analytical muscles in a freewheeling cable-news interview,”

However, Wemple then later added his own freewheeling dig at the Administration, attacking Trump’s “unfathomable pronouncements of incompetence, indifference and cluelessness from the president in public appearance after public appearance. What’s an experienced health reporter to say?”  The later addendum certainly assuaged those who were upset with the Post for chastising a Trump critic. If this was a matter of journalistic ethics, why was it necessary to add an effective “well Trump had it coming” statement?  If McNeil strayed outside of the ethical parameters, it does not matter how you view Trump.  The issue is the judgment of the journalist, not the reputation of the President.  Wemple’s “justified cause” addendum bulldozed the high ground by taking his own dig at the President. It is like saying that a police officer used excessive force but the suspect was a bad one so “what’s an experienced police officer to do?”

The controversy is reflects a frustration that I have expressed over legal analysis. I have been a columnist and legal analyst for decades.  Generally, while there were unfortunate outliers, legal analysts tended to be closely tied to legal authority and less partisan. That tradition has been lost in the age of echo-journalism where the ability to appear on many media outlets depends on your willingness to declare Trump or his associates guilty of an ever expanding array of crimes.  Legal analysts often feed an insatiable appetite for attacks disguised as analysis under the same relativistic view of “what is an experienced legal analyst to do?”

143 thoughts on ““We Were In A Headless-Chicken Phase”: New York Times Reporter Rebuked By Paper For Anti-Trump Tirade on CNN”

  1. Jonathan: So you think “journalistic ethics” has been breached because CNN broadcast an interview with NT Times Science and Health reporter Donald McNeil Jr. Why? Because of his “tirade against President Donald Trump”. Granted McNeil has a POV (who doesn’t these days) but you think McNeil crossed a forbidden line by expressing his “opinion” about Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. In your continuing criticism of the mainstream media I can’t ever recall you mentioning FOX News, a serial abuser when it comes to “journalistic ethics”. While it claims to be “fair and balanced” FOX pushes misinformation and “opinion” every day. Sean Hannity is the poster child for invective and rants against anyone who opposes Trump. That’s why Trump considers Hannity his unofficial WH advisor. In another column you criticized Judge Emmet Sullivan because he exercised his right to order a hearing around AG Barr’s sudden and dubious reason for withdrawing the case against Michael Flynn. In a clear case of “echo-journalism” FOX’s Pirro pronounced that Judge Sullivan “needs to recuse himself, he should be embarrassed to put a robe on: Such “opinion” is standard fare on FOX News.that doesn’t indulge in fact-based arguments because unhinged nonsense is vital to its brand. At FOX opinion is king–not the news. So focusing your glare only on CNN and similar outlets fails the smell test.

  2. Meanwhile:

    “Advice from the top U.S. disease control experts on how to safely reopen businesses and institutions during the coronavirus pandemic was more detailed and restrictive than the plan released by the White House last month.

    The guidance, which was shelved by Trump administration officials, also offered recommendations to help communities decide when to shut facilities down again during future flareups of COVID-19.

    The Associated Press obtained a 63-page document that is more detailed than other, previously reported segments of the shelved guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It shows how the thinking of the CDC infection control experts differs from those in the White House managing the pandemic response.

    The White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan that was released April 17 included some of the CDC’s approach, but made clear that the onus for reopening decisions was solely on state governors and local officials.

    By contrast, the organizational tool created by the CDC advocates for a coordinated national response to give community leaders step-by-step instructions to “help Americans re-enter civic life,” with the idea that there would be resurgences of the virus and lots of customization needed. The White House said last week that the document was a draft and not ready for release.

    It contains the kinds of specifics that officials need to make informed decisions, some experts said.

    “The White House is pushing for reopening but the truth of the matter is the White House has just not had a comprehensive plan where all the pieces fit. They’re doing it piecemeal,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

    Such detailed advice should have been available much earlier, said Stephen Morse, a Columbia University expert on the spread of diseases….”


    Link to CD docs at article.

  3. Professor Turley is being mild. The judge is shoving people around to continue the Obama charade. Stinko. He practically apologizes for Sullivan’s egregious conduct based on his past performances acting as a federal slam dunk judge.

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