The New York Times needs to shape up


By Peter J. Wallison.


The “Failing New York Times,” as Donald Trump calls it, deserves to fail if it continues to publish articles like the one by Michael Shear in Sunday’s newspaper. The article reported on Trump’s tweet in this way: “Mr. Trump set up the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity to find evidence for his debunked claim that millions of votes were cast illegally in the 2016 presidential election.”

This description is and should be an affront to every reader who wants the truth and facts from a newspaper. At the very least, Shear should have reported by what authority Trump’s claim was “debunked” — that is, shown to be incorrect — then readers could decide for themselves. Was this claim, for example, debunked by an authoritative and unbiased source, or was it debunked by one of the very people who might have been at fault in allowing ineligible people to vote?

Shear’s support for his outrageous statement is the Mississippi secretary of state, who said about the commission: “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.” The fact that he is a Republican is apparently some kind of validation for Shear, who would almost certainly have reported the comment somewhat differently if what the commission was looking for was evidence of discrimination against African-American voting. The Mississippi Secretary of State is the top voting official in the state. The fact that he would not respond to the commission should be seen as an admission that he has something to hide, not — as Shear presents it — as support for his biased position.

It is not as though election fraud is unknown in the United States. We have all laughed for years at the widely believed idea that in Chicago being dead is not a disqualification for voting. More seriously, there is considerable evidence that the close election of 1960 was purloined for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket by Mayor Daley in Chicago and Lyndon Johnson’s machine in Texas. Nixon, the loser in that context, decided not to challenge the results because of the harm it would do to the country.  In 2000, a presidential election was decided by only a few votes. A presidential commission to determine whether our voting system is accurate should be important to all Americans.

It is a favorite trick of both the left and right to claim that something was debunked as a signal to unwitting or witless supporters that it is not worth considering. It is the equivalent of the policeman’s command to gawkers at a crime scene, “Move along, folks, nothing to see here.” The idea that there might have been illegal voting in 2016 is not debunked by the fact that Trump made that claim, and if a biased reporter can get by his editors with that assumption the once great New York Times has indeed become one long editorial page.

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