On question of ‘lies’, NPR and the New York Times square off

That was a fascinating segment on NPR’s Morning Edition today when an NPR host, who works for an organization that steadfastly refuses to say that Donald Trump lies, quizzed the boss of the country’s most influential newspaper, who works for an organization that has no such qualms.

“It would almost be illiterate to have not called the birther thing a lie,” Dean Baquet, the New York Times’ executive editor, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep.

Read between the lines on that one. That’s Baquet likely calling NPR “illiterate.”

Inskeep quoted his boss’ recent letter to the NPR audience which insisted it’s not a news organization’s job to say someone has lied.

“We should not be telling you how to think. We should give you the information to decide what you think,” Michael Oreskes said in his letter.

“Is the New York Times following that standard when it calls Trump a liar?” Inskeep asked.

That’s a pretty interesting question because it suggests that the Times should be following that standard, which is clearly a debatable point. It was also the point at which it was obvious a guest in the discussion was missing: Oreskes.

“I think I’m using the same standard, I’m just using a different word,” Baquet said to Inskeep. “I think I’m using a more accurate word.”


At that point, Inskeep moved on to a predictable question: “Has the paper said Hillary Clinton has lied?”

“I don’t think Hillary Clinton, to be honest, has crossed the line the way Donald Trump did with the birther issue,” Baquet replied.

That, too, is a debatable point. Which is why a debate on the question of what the news media’s role is in covering this campaign should be the topic of a long and healthy debate somewhere. Soon.

Related: Lies, Lies, Lies (On the Media)

When Donald Trump Lies, Reporters Should Say So. Even If It Makes Them Look ‘Biased.’ (NY Magazine)