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What Is Jonathan Weisman's Deal

Paul Blest Aug 08, 2019. 6 comments

Jonathan Weisman is the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times. He doesn’t exactly explain why the Times’ political coverage has been ill-equipped for covering the Trump era, but he’s a good example of how their coverage has sucked.

Weisman is approximately one week removed from tweeting out a racist thread in response to the factually true assertion that Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the only two Muslim women in Congress, are from the Midwest. In doing so, Weisman implied that Rep. John Lewis—a man born to Alabama sharecroppers, who has fought valiantly his entire life for civil rights in the South—is not actually from the Deep South because he represents a district in Atlanta, the city that’s arguably the cultural and economic capital of the Deep South.

Weisman deleted this thread after getting a tsunami of criticism for it on Twitter, but it wasn’t the first time he’s implied something nefarious about black Muslims. Take this tweet, right after Trump’s election, about Keith Ellison:

Weisman apparently wasn’t tired of stepping in it, though, because today he tweeted this in response to the news that Justice Democrats is endorsing 36-year old Columbus attorney Morgan Harper in her bid to unseat four-term Rep. Joyce Beatty.

Weisman omitted the fact that Harper is black, too, which is a pretty integral part of the story considering he categorized Beatty as an “African-American Democrat.” That’s not great, but Weisman’s response to Harper gently pointing this fact out was pure glib stupidity:

What the fuck?

It’s true that members of the Congressional Black Caucus are hopping mad about Justice Democrats and their threats to primary to CBC members. Apart from Harper, the group that helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win her primary last year and launch her career into the stratosphere has also endorsed Missouri attorney and activist Cori Bush for a second challenge to longtime Rep. Lacy Clay. But it’s just as much of a part of the story that Harper and Bush are also black; without that information, one might jump to the conclusion that Justice Democrats is, in fact, targeting people of color in Congress and trying to replace them with white guys.

Weisman is not an opinion writer. He is not Bret Stephens , for example, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay him. Weisman is the deputy Washington editor for the paper of record, one whose executives demand the policing of tweets of its reporters and freelancers . And yet Weisman’s personal politics—the disdain of progressives and a very weird perception of race and geography—shines through his social media presence. (His last byline was in January, on a piece about the growing conflict between Jews in America and Jews in Israel.)

It’s not exactly a coincidence that these are both things the Times has come under fire for over the past several years, most notably in the paper’s absurd-past-the-point-of-parody focus on Trump voters in the Midwest. Back in May, for example, the paper published a very long story about how “blue collar workers” in Youngstown, OH, are still sticking with Trump, despite his failed promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. As Times op-ed writer Jamelle Bouie pointed out, the article (and so many others like it) failed to mention that Youngstown is a minority-majority city, in a county which was won by Hillary Clinton, albeit narrowly, in the 2016 election. This is a real problem that permeates throughout the paper’s political coverage, with some notable exceptions, such as Astead Herndon’s reporting.

If the Times didn’t purport to hold itself to a high standard of objectivity and providing fair coverage, that would be one thing. But it does, and Weisman’s continued employment in his current role is a good example of why that belief is so fatally flawed.

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