There seems to be a common thread in the New York Times' campaign coverage today. First, the lead story:
Donald Trump Clung to ‘Birther’ Lie for Years, and Still Isn’t Apologetic
It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.
It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”
It was not true in 2014, when Mr. Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’” It was never true, any of it. Mr. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.
Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally, on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president.
Next, on Trump's latest incitement to assassination (a suggestion that Clinton's bodyguards "drop their weapons," in which case, "Let's see what happens to her"):
In justifying his remarks, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that Mrs. Clinton wants to “destroy your Second Amendment,” apparently a reference to her gun control policies.Then, re the gyrations in his shapeshifting "tax plan":
A few hours after Donald J. Trump publicly backed away from a $1 trillion tax cut for small businesses, campaign aides on Thursday privately assured a leading small-business group that Mr. Trump in fact remained committed to the proposal — winning the group’s endorsement.And then, circling back to the foundational lie:
The campaign then told the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington think tank it asked to price the plan, that Mr. Trump had indeed decided to eliminate the tax cut.
Call it the trillion-dollar lie: Both assertions cannot be true.
Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Theory, but Floats a New One: Clinton Started ItThe text flags a bonus lie:
Mr. Trump’s aides, in a statement late Thursday, tried to argue that he had actually “ended” the birther issue. Mr. Trump’s spokesman, Jason Miller, asserted — also falsely — that Mr. Trump had “obtained” Mr. Obama’s birth certificate; the president actually released the long-form version in 2011.The Times has taken a lot of heat lately for, its critics say, over-covering the Clinton Foundation and Clinton email controversies while undercovering Trump's endless train of lies and scams. See Norm Ornstein here and Josh Marshall here. Could the paper be responding to the criticism? Is there a new resolve to call a lie a lie?* In any case, kudos to Michael Barbaro, Nick Corasaniti, Nicholas Confessore, Binyamin Appelbaum, Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport for doing just that in today's paper.
More broadly: recognizing that my Twitter feed skews left and my election anxiety needs soothing, I've fancied in the last day or two that the combination of the tightening polls, the barrage of media criticism, and Trump's latest abuses has shifted the coverage, and more outlets are calling out his lies more directly.
I suspect that NYT folks would respond that they have called out Trump's lies directly from the beginning. I'm sure they can point to examples. But today's concentrated burst is striking.
UPDATE, 9/20: Via QZ, NYT executive editor Dean Baquet confirms that Saturday's coverage marks a deliberate sea change:
“I think our investigative work—see [the Sept. 17] story on Trump’s tax breaks—has always been hard hitting,” says Dean Baquet, the New York Times’ executive editor. “But we have decided to be more direct in calling things out when a candidate actually lies.”QZ's Steve LeVine does me one better in the Saturday Times "lie count":
The shift in language coincides with Trump’s reversal on his false, five-year-old claims that president Barack Obama was born outside the US, which came with a new fabrication on the topic: that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, started the rumors about Obama’s birthplace.
Says Baquet, “The birther issue represents, well, outright lying. And he lied over a long period. It is a real word and we will use it when warranted.”
In at least five articles in the New York Times on Sept. 17, including the lead story in the print edition, the words “lie,” “false,” “falsely claimed” and “untrue” appeared in headlines, lead paragraphs, and top sections of the paper’s Trump coverage.