Well, the Wall Street Journal and Gerard Baker finally did it to themselves.
As you’re probably aware, the Journal has been variously criticized for adopting an absurdly biased editorial line when it comes to Trump. According to multiple reports, that’s sparked a veritable “civil war” at the paper.
One particularly egregious episode involved Baker actually taking the byline on a Trump interview, a decision that was variously lampooned by other media outlets. WSJ’s bias was laid bare when Politico got ahold of the full transcript of that interview which was the subject of what amounted to a puff piece the Journal ran on July 25.
As Politico noted in their piece introducing that transcript, Baker taking the lead byline was “an unusual step for the editor in chief of a paper with a large White House reporting staff.”
Of course it doesn’t seem so “unusual” when you consider that Baker has reportedly taken an aggressively defensive stance towards his own employees with regard to what many believe is hopelessly biased coverage of Trump’s presidential trials and tribulations. Consider this excerpt from the Politico article, for instance:
Baker has defended his paper in the past from criticism, both internal and external, that the broadsheet has been too soft on the real estate mogul and reality-television star-turned-45th president of the United States.
In an internal town hall with employees in February, Baker said that anyone who claims the Journal has been soft on Trump is peddling “fake news,” and that employees who are unhappy with the Journal’s objective, as opposed to oppositional, approach to Trump should work somewhere else.
Nope – nothing suspicious about that.
Well as it turns out, Baker was pretty damn frustrated with his staff’s initial draft of a story about Trump’s batsh*t crazy Phoenix rally (the one from August), going so far as to demand the removal of the following largely innocuous phrases from the piece the Journal would eventually run:
The speech was an off-script return to campaign form.
Trump pivoted away from remarks a day earlier in which he had solemnly called for unity.
Those statements are true. That is: that’s just what happened. There’s no bias inherent in the phrasing, and even if you want to say there’s some veiled cynicism in there, it’s so tame as to be virtually meaningless. I mean would anyone (other than Trump, and see that’s the point) seriously read those two sentences and think “wow, really unfair”?
Well anyway, The New York Times got its hands on some of the e-mails Baker sent to his staff. To wit, from the Times‘ piece on this:
Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, has faced unease and frustration in his newsroom over his stewardship of the newspaper’s coverage of President Trump, which some journalists there say has lacked toughness and verve.
Some staff members expressed similar concerns on Wednesday after Mr. Baker, in a series of blunt late-night emails, criticized his staff over their coverage of Mr. Trump’s Tuesday rally in Phoenix, describing their reporting as overly opinionated.
“Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” Mr. Baker wrote at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning to a group of Journal reporters and editors, in response to a draft of the rally article that was intended for the newspaper’s final edition.
He added in a follow-up, “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”
Ok, so we knew this was going to come back and bite the Journal on the ass. Recall this from an August post we ran with regard to those Baker e-mails:
I mean read the quotes from his e-mail again. What does this even mean?…
Could we please just stick to reporting what he said?
Why not just skip the reporting altogether then? That is, why not just publish a full transcript of the President’s remarks?
Ohhhhhhh, that’s right. Because if you publish the whole transcript, then Trump looks even crazier. Which is why Baker (essentially) threatened to fire employees who leaked the transcript of his own interview with the President as reported in the linked piece above by Politico.
So basically, the only thing that’s acceptable to Baker when it comes to Trump coverage is transcripts of the President’s remarks edited for craziness and curated by Baker himself, with a byline by Baker.
Well guess what? This week, the Journal published the full transcript of their interview with Trump and it did indeed come across as batshit crazy (more on that here).
One of the quotes that appears in the edited version of the interview is this about Kim Jong-Un:
I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.
The unedited version reads as follows:
WSJ: You think North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the two countries, between you and President Moon?
Mr. Trump: I’ll let you know in—within the next 12 months, OK, Mike?
Mr. Trump: I will let you know. But if I were them I would try. But the difference is I’m president; other people aren’t. And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s ever lived, but I’ll let you know. But I’ll tell you, you know, when you talk about driving a wedge, we also have a thing called trade. And South Korea—brilliantly makes—we have a trade deficit with South Korea of $31 billion a year. That’s a pretty strong bargaining chip to me.
With that being said, President Xi has been extremely generous with what he’s said, I like him a lot. I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.
WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—
Mr. Trump: I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—
WSJ: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un…
Mr. Trump: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.
The White House is furious. Can you guess why? It’s because it sounds crazy for Trump to suggest that he has a good relationship with a man who has called him a “mentally deranged dotard.” As a reminder, here are some excerpts from Kim’s actual “dotard” statement:
His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign.
After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.
I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue.
Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.
I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.
Does that sound like someone with whom Trump “probably has a very good relationship”? Further, would you call someone you had a “good relationship” with “short and fat” and would you threaten that person with whom your relationship is “good” with a nuclear strike? Of course you wouldn’t, which is why the administration felt the need to dispute WSJ’s account of the interview, starting with this “official”, full-color, exclamation-point-ridden “statement” (if that’s what you want to call it) from Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
That is so comical that we weren’t entirely sure if it was real on Saturday:
is this real? did they really create this with all the colors and exclamation points?
and WSJ is now "fake news" too? https://t.co/Ca1CNeH7Wf
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) January 14, 2018
Just to be clear, this is the press secretary releasing a bright red “FAKE NEWS” notice about the Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal, complete with the purportedly misquoted word in red all-caps followed by this: “NOT I!”
Huck-San then tweeted out the “official audio”:
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 14, 2018
Hilariously, the Journal cranked the volume up on that shit and released it along with this statement:
The White House disputed the accuracy of a comment by the president about Kim Jong Un. The Wall Street Journal stands by its transcript and is releasing the audio from this portion of the interview.
Here’s the audio as posted by WSJ:
You can draw your own conclusions there and you’d be correct to say that this is an absurdly petty dispute.
Trump doesn’t and wouldn’t (i.e. it doesn’t matter if he said “I” or “I’d”) have a “good relationship” with Kim Jong-Un because Kim Jong-Un is just using Trump as a convenient justification to fulfill Pyongyang’s nuclear aspirations and now that that’s done, he’s going to go ahead and extent the olive branch to the South and just cut Trump out of the loop.
Meanwhile, Trump is now alienating his only remaining credible ally in the mainstream media. Go figure.
Next will be Trump calling Wall Street Journal “fake news” on Twitter on the way to burning one more bridge.
Oh wait, he already did that. This morning. During “Executive Time”…