In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump appointing white nationalist Steve Bannon as his “chief strategist and senior counselor” earlier this month, both the Washington Post and New York Times penned editorials denouncing him.
The Post’s editorial board referred to the movement Bannon spearheaded in his role as executive chairman of Breitbart News as “deeply reactionary, rooted in a kind of white chauvinism, with disturbing overtones of anti-Semitism.” And the Times called Bannon’s “toxic ideology” an “ominous sign of what the Trump presidency will actually look like.”
But last year, both the Post and Times partnered with Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute (GAI) to disseminate opposition research on Hillary Clinton published in Clinton Cash, a book by Breitbart contributor Peter Schweizer.
In April 2015, Politico reported that the “New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters.”
As ThinkProgress detailed last year, Clinton Cash cited a fake press release and relied on circumstantial evidence to make a case that the Clinton State Department traded favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees for Bill Clinton. Other outlets highlighted a number of additional errors in the book ranging from Schweizer falsely inflating Bill Clinton’s speaking fees to overstating the power then-Secretary Hillary Clinton had to prevent Russia from buying a company with uranium mining operations in the United States. Margaret Sullivan, then the public editor of the Times, questioned her paper’s arrangement with GAI in a April 2015 blog post, writing that even though there was no financial arrangement with Schweizer, “I still don’t like the way it looked.”
Nonetheless, in August, the Times reported that the FBI used the book as the basis of an investigation into the Clinton Foundation that didn’t go anywhere.
Steve Bannon’s disturbing views on ‘genetic superiority’ are shared by TrumpThey also validate a core belief of white nationalists.thinkprogress.orgLast week, the Post reported that Bannon, co-founder of GAI, accepted $376,000 in pay from the 501(c)3 non-profit since launching it in 2012. Schweizer, meanwhile, received $778,000. The report also confirmed that “Post reporters have used the institute as a resource for investigative leads.”
Instead of fact-checking, the Times and Post ignored Clinton Cash’s errors Schweizer’s history of inaccuracy and amplified the book’s anti-Clinton innuendos — material Trump himself used to attack Hillary, win the presidency, and empower white nationalists like Bannon. Now, in the wake of a campaign where fake news outperformed legitimate reporting, the country’s two largest papers are left penning editorials condemning Trump for elevating a man whose flawed work they amplified.
Scrutinizing leading presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton is warranted and legitimate. But it’s unclear why the nation’s two leading papers would have to partner with someone like Bannon to do that work.