Live from La Farine: Discussion - MCO425x | edX:
Let's start with Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:
Jonathan Martin: Forget What I Said. That Scott Walker Call? Never Happened http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/07/06/forget-what-i-said-that-scott-walker-call-never-happened: "Last Wednesday, Stephen Moore, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who is an outspoken supporter of an immigration overhaul...
...described a recent telephone call with Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in which he said Mr. Walker had assured him he had not completely renounced his earlier support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. "I’m not going nativist, I’m pro-immigration," Mr. Walker said, according to Mr. Moore’s account.... On Sunday... Moore said... that the call had never actually taken place...
Crystal clear, right? Stephen Moore (whom I distrust immensely) is here a liar, right?
Let's go down the story a few paragraphs:
It was not until Sunday afternoon that Mr. Moore emailed this reporter to say he had ‘miscommunicated something to you in our interview.’ ‘The conversation that Scott Walker had on immigration wasn’t with me but one of the principals of our Committee to Unleash Prosperity,’ Mr. Moore wrote...
So Moore is confessing that he was trying to make it sound as if he were a more important person than he is--that Scott Walker calls and talks to him, rather than or as well as the more important money angels of the CUP.
Reading further down:
Mr. Moore wrote: ‘In that conversation it became clear that as I said "he is not going in a nativist position on immigration".’ Mr. Moore wrote that he had also personally talked to Mr. Walker about immigration.... Setting aside the more recent phone call, Mr. Moore said he stood by his belief that Mr. Walker ‘was not going in a nativist direction on immigration.’...
So Martin's claim that the conversation "had never actually taken place" hinges on whether "the conversation" is defined as "a conversation between Scott Walker and Moore in which Walker states that he is not going nativist" or as "a conversation between Scott Walker and someone high up in the CUP in which Walker states that he is not going nativist".
And then the kicker, at the close:
This is the second time this year that Mr. Walker has been reported as saying privately that he was open to an immigration overhaul beyond measures to address the border, only to have his aides later deny such assertions were made. In March, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Walker said at a private dinner with New Hampshire Republicans that he was open to letting illegal immigrants eventually obtain American citizenship. Mr. Walker’s aides disputed that account as well.
If you read to the end of the story, think hard about it, and have a bunch of background knowledge already about the dance of the Republican candidates, you have to assess that the balance of the probabilities is that it is more likely than not that:
- Walker assured a CUP honcho that he is not going nativist
- That CUP honcho than talked to Moore
- Moore than puffed himself up by claiming that the conversation had been with himself, rather than one of the money angels
- Walker's staff angrily called Moore a liar--and pointed out to him in private that they could release Walker's phone logs showing that Moore was a liar
- Moore walked back the part of his story in which it was him who Walker had talked to
- Martin--in order to gain points for future use with Walker's staff--gave the story a headline and opening paragraphs to make Walker's staff very happy.
- Martin--in order to cover his butt--gave the story a last paragraph the essentially goes: "nudge nudge, wink wink, Moore lied but Walker is telling people in private that his public anti-immigration posture is not to be taken seriously, is red meat for the base."
But if you do not read to the end, do not think hard for a little while, and do not have substantial background already on the dance of the Republican candidates, you almost surely come away with a false impression of what actually went down.
By contrast, suppose you use the New York Times for its best and most efficient use--fishwrap--and rely on Vox.com for your news. Then you learn:
Dara Lind: Did a Heritage Foundation economist really make up a phone call with Scott Walker? http://www.vox.com/2015/7/7/8906867/scott-walker-immigration: "Did Stephen Moore really lie about Walker's immigration stance to the New York Times?...
...Or was Walker just another GOPer trying to reassure elites he's not an immigration hard-liner?... All Republican candidates are struggling with the donor/voter divide on immigration, but Walker is unusually bad at finessing it.... Walker has made this particularly tough on himself: Attacking legal immigration, which Republican donors strongly support, separates him from the pack in a bad way in donors' eyes. And with donors already suspicious that Walker actually believes what he says on culture-war issues like same-sex marriage, this was probably not a great fight to pick. But Walker is hardly the only candidate trying to figure out how to avoid pissing off either donors or primary voters on immigration. He's just the one whose failures have been most public.
My judgment: Dara Lind makes it easy for her readers to understand what she thinks is going on--and she is a very smart and hard-working person who is following this closely. Jonathan Martin is also a very smart and hard-working person who is following this closely--but he makes it very hard for his readers to understand what he thinks is going on. Dara Lind is trying to build a reputation as a trusted information intermediary because that is what her boss Ezra Klein wants her to do, and because she thinks that is her job. Jonathan Martin is not trying to build a reputation as a trusted information intermediary because he would rather please his sources in the Walker campaign who he hopes will give him scoops. And Jonathan Martin's boss Dean Baquet does not much care about building a reputation as a trusted information intermediary--he thinks he has other, more important fish to fry.
In a world in which the ecology of media were working properly, Vox.com would be rapidly gaining mindshare, readership, and money, and the New York Times would be rapidly losing all three, and going bankrupt.
Is that the world we live in? I do not know. I would very much like to see some financials...