The New York Times Public Editor, Liz Spayd, has written a column in which she addresses the Times’ failure to cover Hillary saying – correctly – during an interview on Fox that FBI Director James Comey said her answers regarding classified emails were truthful. Without actually saying it, Spayd’s position appears to be: “We should have jumped on the bandwagon of unfairly calling Hillary a liar.” Meanwhile, she ignores a headline accusing Hillary of hunting white males.


Dear Ms. Spayd:

Hillary did not lie about her emails. Nor did she lie when she asserted that FBI Director Comey hadn’t said otherwise.

As someone who is preoccupied with words for a living, surely you can appreciate the difference between “a lie,” intended to deceive, and “a false statement,” offered unknowingly.

This morning, as every morning, my husband woke up, showered and dressed, drank a cup of coffee, and kissed me goodbye before he left for work. If someone called the house looking for him, and I told them he’s at work, and then they try him at work, but he’s not there, either, because he’s at a deli getting a sandwich for lunch, would I be lying?

No, I would have made an incorrect statement; told a falsehood. But I would not be lying. Because I was not intending to deceive anyone; I was simply providing what I thought to be a true statement based on the best information I had at the time.

This is not an insignificant distinction.

And it is a distinction that Comey recognizes. It is a distinction the law recognizes. Even if media outlets who are insistent on handing out “Pinocchios” refuse to make.

The New York Times made the right call in not treating Hillary’s interview with Mike Wallace as a major story. After all, as my colleague Peter Daou and I noted previously:

It’s patently obvious that Hillary has told the truth based on the facts she knew at the time. 110 out of 55,000 emails contained information that was NOT marked classified; nor did she know that they contained information deemed classified by other agencies. Simply put, Hillary trusted that the material she was sent — and on occasion replied to — was not classified. Because it was never marked classified. She stated her honest opinion when she said she didn’t send or receive classified information.

The implicit premise in your column, Ms. Spayd, is that the New York Times was trying to conceal some nefarious claim made by Hillary, but the truth is that the Times quite rightly regarded it as a non-story, while other news outlets irresponsibly ignored the facts and crucial distinctions that, in fact, demonstrate Hillary did not lie then. Or now.

And it is frankly incredible to me that this – this! – is the hill you want to fight on, when it comes to the Times’ coverage of Hillary.

Can you appreciate my contempt, Ms. Spayd, for your effectively apologizing for not covering an intellectually dishonest garbage story about Hillary’s integrity, in the same week that your paper:

  1. Ran a despicable headline casting Hillary in the role of “hunter” stalking white male voters as her “prey.”
  2. Changed that headline, following public scorn, to the slightly less offensive variation of “targeting” white male voters.
  3. Did so without public acknowledgment, apology, or even a correction note to the piece, which still stands without any indication that the headline was changed because it was so objectionable.

Let me not mince words, Ms. Spayd: That seems like an intent to conceal the truth. Ahem.

Your column also comes within days of your paper’s resident Hillary Hater, Maureen Dowd, penning an unjustifiably gross column about the Clintons, headlined “Bill Clinton Pours on the Estrogen,” in which it is implied that “Bill Clinton has to be a woman because Hillary is too much of a man.”

I could go backwards, day by day, for weeks and months and years, to find multitudinous examples of coverage of Hillary which is beyond the pale. And yet your primary concern is that your paper wasn’t hard enough on Hillary? That you failed to cover a story the only point of which is to indefensibly call Hillary a liar?

My word. That is an alarming set of journalistic priorities.

Your column ends thus: “As the general election unfolds, it’s essential that whatever doubts linger about the candidates, these voters believe that The Times will give them the information they need to answer those questions.”

Is that irony? Do you honestly believe that’s what you’re doing – ensuring that you’re giving your readers the information they need to answer the questions they have about the people running for this nation’s presidency?

Because I can assure you, Ms. Spayd, as a voter and a reader of your paper, I do not consider “she’s such a liar” to be crucial information about one of the most ethical and most lied about political leaders in America.

To the absolute contrary, I consider it a profoundly troubling obfuscation of the facts, in the middle of an election on which the very future of this country turns.

Sincerely,
Melissa McEwan