Matt Taibbi: 'How the New York Times Sandbagged Bernie Sanders'

Editor's Note: On Monday, the New York Times published an article titled "Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories" by congressional reporter Jennifer Steinhauer. The piece cast a dim light on Bernie Sanders’ legislative achievements by tacking on his agenda to larger bills, not unlike when Democrats complain that Republicans do this maliciously when making compromises. But as Medium picked up on Tuesday in an article titled “Proof That the New York Times Isn’t Feeling the Bern,” the New York Times’ bias could be tracked publicly thanks to the earlier draft that “many people, including Sanders himself, had already shared ... widely on social media and other sites.” A side-by-side comparison shows how the New York Times’ editors wrote their own pro-Hillary Clinton, anti-Bernie Sanders spin on what should have been a wide sample size of proof of Sanders’ experience getting hard results for his constituents. Matt Taibbi performed a brilliant close analysis of the two articles for Rolling Stone — the original NYT title being the far less harsh “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors” — using his experience having written what he calls “essentially the same article nearly 11 years ago” for Rolling Stone, his being titled “Four Amendments and a Funeral.” —Jenny Pierson, AlterNet

In 2015 we saw how the New York Times was instrumental in erecting a wall of silence around the Sanders campaign ​as Bernie struggled to overcome a large deficit in name recognition against an almost universally known opponent. Then late last year silence turned into unremitting negativity.

How the New York Times Sandbagged Bernie Sanders

By Matt Taibbi

... Sanders was skilled at the amendment process and also had a unique ability to reach across the aisle to make deals.

Steinhauer the other day wrote very nearly the same thing. She described how Bernie managed to get a $1.5 billion youth jobs amendment tacked onto an immigration bill through "wheeling and dealing, shaming and cajoling."

The amendment, she wrote, was "classic Bernie Sanders," a man she described as having "spent a quarter-century in Congress working the side door, tacking on amendments to larger bills that scratch his particular policy itches, generally focused on working-class Americans, income inequality and the environment."

Now, Steinhauer's piece wasn't all flattering. This is, after all, the New York Times, which has practically been an official mouthpiece for the Clinton campaign this election season.

Though we both operated on the same set of facts — i.e., that Sanders had an extensive history of building coalitions to pass amendments — Steinhauer implied that Sanders often acted as a kind of lefty obstructionist, using Republicans to thwart more centrist initiatives. "Mr. Sanders is not unlike Tea Party Republicans in his tactics, except his are a decaf version," she wrote.


First, as noted in the Medium piece, they changed the headline. It went from:

Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors


Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories

Then they yanked a quote from Bernie's longtime policy adviser Warren Gunnels that read, "It has been a very successful strategy."

They then added the following two paragraphs:

"But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.

"Mr. Sanders is suddenly promising not just a few stars here and there, but the moon and a good part of the sun, from free college tuition paid for with giant tax hikes to a huge increase in government health care, which has made even liberal Democrats skeptical."

This stuff could have been written by the Clinton campaign. It's stridently derisive, essentially saying there's no evidence Bernie's "small-ball" approach (I guess Republicans aren't the only ones not above testicular innuendo) could ever succeed on the big stage.


Online content does change a bit from time to time, but I've never been in a situation where an editor has asked me to alter the overall meaning of a piece, which is what happened in this case.

Taibbi shows how a candidate for president apparently was smeared by the editors at our so-called paper of record.

It would seem the NY Times hasn't been fair with either Democratic candidate during this campaign cycle, and we should find that disturbing, no matter who we support.


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