Super Bowl

That Time a Professional Football Team Fact-Checked The New York Times

An attempt to re-open the stupidest narrative of 2017 backfires spectacularly. When will the media learn to stop creating fake controversies?

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Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

It says something about the state of the media today—and something about how certain elements of the media are determined to stir up controversies around President Donald Trump, even where none exist—that a major newspaper found itself on the receiving end of a fact check from a professional football team this week.

Here's how it happened. Players and staff of the The New England Patriots were visiting the White House on Wednesday to celebrate their victory over the Atlanta Falcons in February's Super Bowl, as is traditional for professional teams (and college teams, and Little League teams, and so on) to do in the aftermath of winning a national championship. This whole "tradition" is not so much about celebrating a championship as it is about allowing the sitting president to glom onto a bit of the local goodwill generated by championship-winning teams.

(I did a bit of googling in an attempt to determine which president is the responsible for the creation of this vapid bit of White House pomp, but was unsuccessful. If anyone knows, please leave a comment so in the future we will know which POTUS deserves our scorn. Update: A few of you emailed and commented to point out that, fittingly, President Ronald "The Gipper" Reagan is responsible for starting this tradition, though some championship teams had been invited to the White House for various reasons since at least the 1960s.)

At best, it's a waste of everyone's time, the kind of event that—except perhaps on the sports pages in city where the winning team plays—deserves nothing more than a passing mention in the media.

So, naturally, the national media covers it like a major event.

That's why The New York Times had its sports editor, Jason Stallman, at the White House on Wednesday. After the handshakes and congratulations were finished, Stallman tweeted the following photo and commentary from the @NYTSports account:

This is, of course, an attempt to reopen the stupidest controversy of 2017: The one that erupted in the days after Trump's inauguration when aerial photos of the event were shown side-by-side with photos of the crowds at President Barack Obama's inaugurations in 2008 and 2012. Thanks to Trump's thin-skinned reaction (not helped by a silly gaffe by the White House photo staff), and the media's desire to make mountains out of any unimportant molehill that can somehow be connected to Trump, it became a week-long "scandal."

This time, thankfully, we didn't have to go through that because the New England Patriots stepped in to correct the record.

Stallman later apologized and took responsibility for the whole thing, telling The Washington Post: "Bad tweet by me. Terrible tweet. I wish I could say it's complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I'm an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time."

But not before the president took the opportunity to comment:

Here's the thing. Trump is right. The Times was wrong. And the public's trust of the media takes another little hit that might make it slightly less likely for someone to believe the Times the next time they are right and Trump is wrong.

All of that happens because of a foolish attempt to create a controversy where there isn't one.

Which is not to say that Trump does not deserved to be criticized. He does. Immeasurably so. He's a man who ran for office promising to stop doing things like bombing the Middle East and waited less than 90 days before going back on that promise. His personal finances and the ways in which he might be using the office of presidency to enrich himself, his family, his company, and his friends should be at the center of attention as often as possible.

The creation of silly, pointless, and false controversies only detract from the seriousness of the real ones. Sure, it was The New York Times that messed up this time, but they're hardly the only ones to blame for this sort of thing. The fact that Stallman was wrong is actually helpful here, because if he had been right, we would have been subjected to days of cable news debates over why fewer Patriots were at the White House this year, and why it matters, and what it says about the president.

Who cares how big Trump's inaugural crowd was? Who cares how many members of a professional football team visited the White House this week? Who cares about the size of the president's hands? How many times will we have to go down this road?

My guess is that this won't be the last time, and the media will continue losing credibility each time it happens.

The only way to get to the bottom of this is to demand an investigation into the ties between Donald Trump, Russian agents, and the owners of the New England Patriots—oh, wait, that's already happened.

NEXT: When should voters march to the beat of scientists?

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  1. A dishonest organization losing credibility is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    1. the Patriots or the media?

  2. He’s a man who ran for office promising to stop doing things like bombing the Middle East and waited less than 90 days before going back on that promise.

    He also promised to Make America Grating Again. Let’s see how well he keeps that promise!

    1. He’s enforced border laws, issued EO’s to overturn Obama’s EO’s, and nominated Gorsuch to SCOTUS. All ready, he’s made great strides in Making America Great Again.

    1. It is a bit of a trick question and has a pair of opposing stock answers.

      (I did a bit of googling in an attempt to determine which president is the responsible for the creation of this vapid bit of White House pomp, but was unsuccessful. If anyone knows, please leave a comment so in the future we will know which POTUS deserves our scorn.)

      The correct scorn answer from history here is Andy Jackson. Unless it is about the national bank, then he gets praise, all sins washed away until a new historical topic comes along..

  3. His personal finances and the ways in which he might be using the office of presidency to enrich himself, his family, his company, and his friends should be at the center of attention as often as possible.”

    The fuck is this shit?

    1. Like his scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation?

      1. What the fuck are you jabbering about idiot.

  4. No need to fact check the New York Times. Just don’t read it.

    1. Yes, snowflake, that’s right response.

      1. If we were snowflakes we’d be reading it and angrily rioting outside its offices every time they probably not something we don’t like.

  5. “Here’s the thing. Trump is right. The Times was wrong.”

    No, HERE’S the thing: Trump is the first chance since – POSSIBLY – Reagan (who failed) of forcing changes to both parties by saying the hell with the status quo and moving in a more conservative direction, and yet he has time to meet and tweet about absolute bullshit like this issue. His pliability in making 180 degree turns on major foreign policy positions and the embarrassing failure of repealing Obamacare is evidence that he has a hell of a lot of work to do and has more reason to fear the GOP establishment’s roadblocks than he does the Democrats.

  6. Who cares how big Drumpf’s inaugural crowd was? Who cares how many members of a professional football team visited the White House this week? Who cares about the size of the president’s hands? How many times will we have to go down this road?

    reason.com Republicans pretending to be libertarians. That’s who.

    Oh, and Drumpf cares. He really, really, does. He cared that his inaugural crowd was smaller, so much so that he wished somebody would call the Parks’ dept. and correct it (via Photoshop?) and the size of his fingers.

    Sent a note to the dude who called him a shot fingered vulgarian. For YEARS.

    And of course, Eric. Eric cares.

    1. There’s another possibility. Trump simply likes keeping his name active. No such thing as bad publicity. Keep your opponents guessing, keep them off-balance.

      Trump isn’t stupid. That ought to be obvious: no one gets all that money, or loses and regets it, while being stupid or an heir. To write his actions off as being actually important to him, in themselves, is to write him off as being incredibly stupid.

      The fact that he grew his inheritance, that he has a zillion irons in a zillion fires, and finally, that he actually became President, ought to be proof enough that he is not stupid. It is far more plausible that he simply likes trolling people than that he actually cares about inaugural crowd sizes as anything other than a means to keep his bran active and to troll the press into helping him.

      He is NOT stupid.

      1. I agree. And the left bitching about his tax returns while ignoring the Clinton Foundation and the Obama scandals…

    2. “Drumpf”

      It’s this type of cleverness and display of intellect that has libertarians gaining political support hovering around the 3% range.

  7. Happy Earth Day. Here’s some perspective on past hysteria on the end of the world as we know it.

    http://www.aei.org/publication…..ekly042216

  8. “Which is not to say that Trump does not deserved to be criticized.”

    Eric Boehm channeling his inner Robby Soave!

  9. Which is not to say that Trump does not deserved to be criticized. He does. Immeasurably so…

    Every article that finds itself having to agree with Trump on the facts of an issue must have Two Minutes Trump Hate to compensate.

    Progressitarians

    1. It’s this new thing called *thinking*. It’s an amazing concept. When people *think*, they are able to see and express nuance, e.g. Seeing the grey shades of reality instead of black and white, while following principle instead of Glorious Leader. Progressives and Trumpies seem to be offended when people think.

      1. So let people think. For themselves. This story is about the NYT making itself look foolish.

  10. http://www.espn.com/college-fo…..-tradition

    Apparently Andrew Johnson started it, but Reagan made it a regular occurence.

  11. “Bad tweet by me. Terrible tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time.”

    Twitter, showing us exactly how stupidly impulsive most professional reporters are since 2006.

    We understand you have been sent out to report on a fluffy event that matters not in the world of politics or sports 5 minutes after its done and it is waste of your time (though likely not a waste of your level of talent). We understand you do not like this President, but just stop making thoughtless “gotcha” stories already. Try being a professional for once.

  12. “Bad tweet by me. Terrible tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time.”

    Twitter, showing us how stupidly impulsive professional reporters are since 2006.

    We understand that this a nothing event that is not newsworthy in the long in either politics or sports and you may see it as a waste of your talents (though that is dubious). We understand that you do not like Trump, but just stop with the “gotcha” reporting. Be professional.

  13. “Bad tweet by me. Terrible tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time.”

    Twitter, showing us how stupidly impulsive professional reporters are since 2006.

    We understand that this a nothing event that is not newsworthy in the long in either politics or sports and you may see it as a waste of your talents (though that is dubious). We understand that you do not like Trump, but just stop with the “gotcha” reporting. Be professional.

  14. I assume it was meant as a joke.

  15. Unsurprising, considering that the New York Times’ front page for the last 3 months would have you believe we’re in late Weimar Germany.

  16. . Ulysses S. Grant played host to the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869. The first World Series championship team feted at the White House is believed to be the 1924 Washington Senators, who visited Calvin Coolidge at the executive residence the following year.

    John F. Kennedy was the first president to welcome the NBA champions, when the Boston Celtics visited in January 1963, and the Indiana University men’s basketball team is believed to be the first NCAA champion to visit the White House when it was hosted by Gerald Ford in April 1976.

    The first Super Bowl champion to visit was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who joined the World Series-winning Pittsburgh Pirates in a dual ceremony with Jimmy Carter in February 1980.

    It was Ronald Reagan, however, who made the practice of honoring championship teams at the White House a regular occurrence. Reagan had a cooler full of popcorn dumped on him by New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson, evoking the team’s famous Gatorade celebration, in February 1987. The following year, Reagan threw a pass to Washington wide receiver Ricky Sanders.

  17. “His personal finances and the ways in which he might be using the office of presidency to enrich himself, his family, his company, and his friends should be at the center of attention as often as possible.”

    Unlike Democrat pols who feed at the public trough for decades and magically end up millionaires, Trump will most likely leave office poorer than when he entered.

  18. Two things:
    1. “He’s a man who ran for office promising to stop doing things like bombing the Middle East and waited less than 90 days before going back on that promise.” – So Trump’s enforcement of Obama’s “Red Line in the Sand” constitutes the breaking of a promise. I’m sorry but I see that more as the consequences of a called-out action by Syria. Trump merely followed through on actions where Obama whiffed.

    2. “His personal finances and the ways in which he might be using the office of presidency to enrich himself, his family, his company, and his friends should be at the center of attention as often as possible.” Trump and his family were already rich coming into office. You should be more concerned about politicians becoming rich while IN office. I submit to you there’s a HELL of a lot more to be worried about there than by anything Trump Inc. could POSSIBLY do.

  19. During the primaries, the NYT ran a front page story on Marco Rubio and his wife having a bunch of traffic tickets. She got like one or two a year and Rubio only had like 4 in 10 years. They paid them off, took the stupid state classes to get their points down, and hired one of those cheesy TV lawyers to fight a few.

    The article was undeniably written as a hit piece, and was provided directly by a Democrat operative. Even Jon fuckin Stewart mocked them for it.

    There is a reason people go to Fox News and Breitbart. I don’t consider them any worse than the NYT or any other major news outlet.

  20. At best, it’s a waste of everyone’s time,

    What? The more vapid pomp the President engages in, the better of we all are. It means less time for him to mess things up or start new wars.

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