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New York Times’ Runoff Coverage Reflects Hand of Behind Scenes Press Handler Rahm Emanuel

The New York Times coverage of middle-class concerns has become a circus-mirror of confusion for Democrats.

With the help of the New York Times and reporters Julie Bosman and Jonathan Martin, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was able to fend off challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, in a runoff election on Tuesday.

The New York Times coverage of middle-class concerns has become a circus-mirror of confusion for Democrats divided by free trade agreements and neoliberal ideals on the one hand and the plight of hard working families on the other. During Chicago’s runoff election, the Times demonstrated its unflinching support for a democratic leadership that embraces Wall Street’s ownership of City Hall and Capitol Hill.

Throughout Chicago’s runoff election, the Times came to the aid of Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who has handed out big corporate subsidies, blocked a financial transaction tax and pushed for cuts to city workers’ retirement benefits. With the help of the Times and six figure checks from financial executives, Mayor Emanuel was able to overcome his challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in a runoff election Tuesday – outspending him by a 12-to-1 margin.

The Times‘ coverage of Chicago’s mayoral election changed significantly when Mayor Rahm Emanuel was forced into a runoff bid for his second term. The voices changed too, as longtime Chicago-based correspondent Monica Davey was banished to the other side of the great cheese wall to cover Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The tone of the Times‘ runoff coverage showed a profound change, absent the balanced and objective reporting of Davey. Their new style unabashedly belittled challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with innuendo while ignoring facts and gushing overtly for Emanuel.

In a series of runoff election articles, the Times began with the misleading claim that Mr. Garcia had been avoiding questions. A second article suggested that now Mr. Garcia often had more than one answer. A third coauthored article condoned the overt mocking of Mr. Garcia and his constituents, as “the liberals at the Heartland Café in Rogers Park [who] can think great thoughts and read poetry for Chuy.”

The Times followed with the same reporters accepting the mayor’s denials and excuses with zero inquiry, attempting to repair his image by softening perceptions about his consistently vulgar behavior.

In a final article, Bosman returned to focus on racially divided voting with a headline that suggests Emanuel’s challenger, more than Rahm, “Struggles to Unite Latinos and Blacks.

New Voices Spun the News Cycle for Emanuel

What news editor would sign-off on the type of reporting coverage we saw from theTimes once the Chicago’s mayoral runoff election began? We can’t be sure who gave the command, but we do know that it was Alison Mitchell, national editor at the New York Times who assigned Julie Bosman with gushing praise to be their Midwest correspondent last April.

Filling the void left by Davey and spinning the news cycle for Emanuel’s runoff bid were two new voices. Jumping in to cover the runoff-election for the Times was newMidwest correspondent Julie Bosman – known for publishing Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson’s home address – and Jonathan Martin, a national political correspondent described by his friend Rich Lowrey at The Washington Post, as a “warmed-over hack” from The National Review, where Martin cut his teeth writing conservative commentary on politics.

Connections That Tether Back to the 1990’s

Before delving into examples of the noticeably changed tone once Garcia forced arunoff election, consider briefly the connection between Alison Mitchell and Rahm Emanuel that tethers back to the 1990s’ Clinton presidency.

Mitchell joined the Times in 1992 and progressed from a metro reporter to a White House correspondent. She ran the Washington bureau’s Congressional coverage while Emanuel served as a Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton in Washington.

In the Clinton White House, Emanuel acted as a “behind-the-scenes press handler,” according to the 1998 Howard Kurtz book titled, Spin Cycle: How the White House And The Media Manipulate The News. In part, Emanuel’s role was to strategically leak stories to the Times, the Post, and The Los Angeles Times. Occasionally, he snubbed Wall Street Journal reporters like Michael Frisby and others when their coverage wasn’t to Emanuel’s liking and “he was not shy about calling a reporter an [explicative] idiot.”

During his time in the Clinton Administration the, “White House staff spent untold thousands of dollars on Nexis searches, combing the journalistic databases for every scandalous tidbit they could find so Emanuel could knowledgeably engage in the art of spin.”

Writing for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Peter Baker said about Emanuel’s time between the Clinton and Obama Administrations, that “he managed to get around so much that an editor at a major newspaper at the time recalled finding Emanuel’s name on the expense account of virtually every reporter covering Washington for that paper.” In this March 2010 article, Baker maintains that “Emanuel is unquestionably a master manipulator of the news media.”

Emanuel would bring the same approach to Chicago.

Poorly Reported Coverage, Cynical, Shallow and Misleading

Chicago’s mayoral runoff generated plenty of media coverage, particularly from the Times, but after Davey’s February 24th piece – her last on the City’s election – the Times‘ coverage changed significantly, in content and tone, from Davey’s authoritative and nuanced reporting based on years covering Chicago, to a cynical and shallow approach that was so misleading, poorly reported, and snidely written that it suggested questioning of the Times‘ editorial leadership and whether Emanuel’s media manipulations were at work.

The opening sentence in Bosman’s March 13 article – her first on the runoff election – set the tone for the series published by the Times during the runoff. Bosman began, “After spending months avoiding questions about how he would solve Chicago’s dizzying fiscal problems, Jesus G. Garcia released a plan…”

The problems, with those first words, are that they gave a less than honest portrayal of fact. Indirectly, Bosman intentionally favored the mayor suggesting that his “challenger” was “avoiding questions.” Bosman offered this statement as fact, with no reference to Mr. Garcia’s reluctance to engage in political rhetoric without having adequately accessed the details necessary to offer specifics.

Deceptive Word Play Permeated Runoff Coverage

Later, Bosman referenced Garcia’s intention to consolidate costs and the investment fees related to Chicago’s bond obligations while glossing over his intent to “make changes in tax increment financing.” TIF money – as it is sometimes called – had been a matter of concern and criticism about Emanuel. The allocation of TIF money was illustrative of Emanuel’s disparate use of economic development funds around the city. In a recent Chicago Reader piece, Ben Joravsky wrote that Emanuel had allocated nearly half of the $1.3 billion in TIF funds to just the Loop and immediately surrounding areas.

To dismiss Garcia and an entire discussion about TIF funds in one sentence was a disservice to Chicagoans concerned about their choices in that runoff election. It was a subject that many of Emanuel’s critics and even some of his council allies said should change so that more resources would go to struggling neighborhoods.

Spokesman Given Open Microphone to Personally Belittle

In the blatant marginalization of Garcia’s candidacy, Bosman wrote, “Mr. Garcia, 58, who is widely known as Chuy, provided few details, on how he would address the city’s $300 million operating shortfalls and underfunded pension liabilities.”

Most troubling was that Emanuel’s campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry, was then given the equivalent of an open microphone to belittle Mr. Garcia personally, “comparing him to a foot-dragging high school student.” Mayberry was also quoted to say, “After four months of studying for the exam, Chuy Garcia is telling Chicago voters he will hand in his homework after graduation.”

Mayberry labeled Garcia’s approach of appointing a commission to attack complex budget issues and secure workers’ pensions an “empty promise,” among other disparaging comments which were neither evaluated by Bosman, nor balanced by a look at Emanuel’s own record on the same issues.

For example, Bosman must have been aware that Chicago’s dire financial issues resulted in a lowered debt rating by Moody’s Investors Service. Yet she failed to acknowledge, that Moody’s had lowered Chicago’s rating six times over the four years of Emanuel being at the helm. His decisions, in significant measure, left the city with the higher financial costs which came with a debt rating two notches above junk status. Didn’t Mayberry have anything to say on that issue?

Marginalizing Garcia as an Immigrant

Julie Bosman followed with a second article headline, “Chicago Candidate With Sunny Attitude Cloudy on Specifics.” This March 15th piece worked overtime attempting to cast Garcia as a flip-flopper, while twice seizing on his ethnicity and immigration to the city.

Times‘ national editor Mitchell, described Bosman as an investigative reporter when assigning her to be their new Midwest correspondent. So, how was it that Bosman spent so much time belittling Garcia and no time at all looking into Emanuel’s record and campaign? Given a few minutes of research, she might have found that nearly 60 percent of Rahm’s 103 campaign donors – his elite circle – benefited from the city government, receiving contracts, zoning changes, business permits, pension work, board appointments, regulatory help or some other tangible benefits.

Instead, Bosman heralded – apparently with the blessings of her editor Mitchell -Emanuel’s time in Washington “as a top aide to the last two Democratic presidents.” No disclosure was added, despite the fact that Howard Kurtz in his 1998 book Spin Cycle: How The White House And The Media Manipulate The News, documents in considerable detail how Emanuel, as a “behind the scenes press handler,” leaked stories to Mitchell during the Clinton years. Maybe the answer is that media manipulation works the same, whether in Washington or in Chicago elections?

By contrast, in her closing paragraph, Bosman raised the marginalizing innuendo of Mr. Garcia as an immigrant whose father was a farm worker and mother a factory worker who arrived from Mexico when he was “only 9 years old.”

Bosman didn’t cite this as context for Garcia’s accomplishments as she reviewed his record. Instead, it was a reminder of the classism that connected Rahm to people in Washington – presidents, financiers, and Times reporters – not working people and immigrants who speak English as a second language.

Two Reporters Needed for Mocking Anonymous Quote

The Timesthird article on Chicago’s runoff election took a more strategic tone politically with Emanuel being seen on the South Side overseeing city improvements and talking to “hard-hatted city workers.” There was a deliberate effort in their March 21st piece to cast Rahm as “good with the black business community” while reminding us once again, that he had “the full-throated support of the president.” Readers were told that Rahm is counting on a strong showing from African-Americans – one third of the City’s population – and that in the initial balloting, Garcia’s worst results were in heavily black wards.

Comments from Ald. William D. Burns were thrown in to vouch for Emanuel, who was then tied to the legacy of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Importantly, two reporters fail to mention that Burns benefited with last minute money from the mayor-linked political action committee Chicago Forward. It was also a profoundly crass effort to use Ald. Burns race to gloss over the last four years of Emanuel’s questioned priorities ignoring the African-American community.

Mocking, Belittlement and Faux Reporting

The hand of coauthor Martin was seen throughout the entire piece in several respects, most notably through the use of the terms, “left,” “lefty” and “liberal” which occurred no less than fifteen times. There was a concerted effort to fearmonger voters into supporting Emanuel. Throughout the entire piece, voter support for Garcia was marginalized as “a protest vote against Mr. Emanuel that may not hold up in a two-way runoff” – a theme revisited in the final piece.

Apparently, it took two Times‘ reporters to find a Rahm advisor to provide an anonymous quote that mocked Garcia, and indirectly the intelligence of Chicago voters.

Two reporters attempted to take the sting out of Mr. Emanuel’s brusque personality, his vision for public education, Balkanized racial politics and his failure over the past four years to handle the troubled state of the City’s municipal finances. However, offering them up early in that piece and giving Emanuel the last words didn’t cleanse the taint of this brand of mocking, belittlement and faux reporting by the Times.

Reporters Accept Denial and Excuses

In the TimesMarch 30 article, these same reporters open with Emanuel’s denial of a verbal assault on Ald. Scott Waguespack providing no rebuttal from the alderman.

In response to a request for comment on the mayor’s reported denial, Ald. Waguespack told Truthout, “Rahm yelled, I was taken aback.” “I knew he acted that way in D.C. so, I was sort of prepared.” Adding, “He said he didn’t do it, but he’d be wrong,” stated Ald. Waguespack, affirming his original account of that meeting and the mayor’s deeply etched pattern of unrestrained conduct.

Without substantive discussion about Emanuel’s difficulty with unions, the article misleadingly seemed to portray a general endorsement from unions. Comments from William M. Daley, the brother and son of former Chicago mayors, were added to vouch for the mayor’s difficult style as “an acquired taste.”

Once again, the Times‘ allowed spokesman Steve Mayberry to offer excuses for the mayor’s difficulties saying that “Mayor Emanuel took office during unprecedented financial and educational crises.” Paramount is that two reporters fail explore on any level, Emanuel’s influence while serving on the board at Freddie Mac which was created to sell mortgage-backed securities, the financial instruments primarily responsible for the nation’s unprecedented economic collapse.

The article concludes with these reporters laboring to portray a softer side of the mayor, excusing his behaviors as passion while casting him in a v-neck sweater claiming to take responsibility for his vulgar abrasiveness with Karen Lewis among the many.

Racial Divisiveness and Anonymous Quotes

When read in the context of the entire series of Times‘ articles on the runoff election, it’s clear that Bosman wanted her April 3rd piece to aid the mayor’s effort to garner the support of African-Americans.

The article purposely began with an observation and anonymous quotes that contributed nothing other than racial divisiveness. Bosman built on an ethnic wedge set in the headline. Overtly marginalizing Mr. Garcia and his campaign supporters with reference to a “giddy” chant as they walk the neighborhoods, the top of article read: “One man did not join in. An African-American who wore a knit Blackhawks hat, he glared at Mr. Garcia from the Curb. ‘I’m voting,’ he said, when asked if he would take part in Tuesday’s election. ‘But I ain’t voting for no Chuy. I ain’t voting for a Mexican.'”

This type of anonymous reference is far below the ethics of responsible reporting. It simply contributes nothing to what voters needed to know about these candidates.

With no support, the article claimed that Mr. Garcia had been unable to “increase his share of the black vote” adding an anonymous suggestion that “he is running into ethnic rivalries and suspicions.”

Readers Should Be Offended

Concluding the series of runoff coverage, Bosman laments Emanuel’s considerable efforts to rally African-American support since the Feb. 24 election, making sure to reference his past relationship and support from President Obama.

Progressives and confused Democrats should see the Times‘ work on Chicago’s runoffelection as an effort by establishment democrats that have embraced Wall Street’s ownership of City Hall and Capitol Hill to support a media-manipulating mayor who, in effect, has shown them all, even less respect than the journalists they manipulated.

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