The original front page top headline on Friday’s New York Times (Jan. 26) was: “Trump Did Not Fire Mueller in June.” The subheading was: “Also Trump did not fire Mueller in July, August, September, October, November, December or even January.”
You may be mystified by this, dear reader, since the headline you read, which was not the original but an altered version, was: “Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit.” Now clearly that first part is not true, for if Trump had ordered Mueller fired, he would not be there now. But Mueller is still rattling around the precincts of the Capital of Exceptionalism.
So obviously the correct version is; “Trump Did Not Fire Mueller in June.” The claim that Trump “ordered” Mueller to be fired raises the question of what an “order” is. And the answer according to the Times is that the “order” is something that has no effect. Was “the order” a point of discussion or suggestion with the White House Attorney to whom it was allegedly issued? What exactly was this “order” and where is its text. An executive order must have a recorded text, but none is to be found or even claimed to exist by the Times.
So how did the original Times headline which we have obtained only with considerable sleuthing get altered? All of the country outside Washington is abuzz with this question now. In response to this growing curiosity our intrepid reporters have chased down the following story which is based on interviews with five anonymous sources who are all charter members of The DC Anonymous Sources Club over on D St. They supplied us with the following transcript of a key exchange between Dean Baquet, Times executive editor, and Maggie Haberman, co-author of the story with Michael Schmidt:
Haberman (opening door to Bacquet’s office where he is alone yelling profanities at a picture of Trump pinned to a dart board): Dean, are you OK?
Baquet (sweating and flushed): Maggie, you interrupted me during my daily Two Minutes of Hate. Don’t ever, ever do that again!
Haberman: But we already had the daily Two Minutes of Hate for the whole newsroom staff, including you, first thing this morning as usual.
Baquet: Maggie, I struggle to keep my edge here; it is hard to keep peddling this stuff every day and keep a straight face. I need extra Hate minutes to keep me on track.
What do you want?
Haberman: You changed my headline and parts of the article! What is up? You cannot go messing around with it too much. We were already out on a limb with the spin I gave this piece. It is no surprise that the Pres. considered at many points firing Mueller as was his right under the Constitution. He would be crazy were he not to have entertained ridding himself of a corrupt hatchet man nipping at his heels. And it would have been equally crazy were he not to have consulted his lawyer on the matter. So when I made it seem nefarious, that was really a stretch already.
Baquet: You worry too much.
Haberman: The part about the Counsel threatening to quit is really upsetting. I could not find anything like that – no documentation whatsoever. Who are those four anonymous sources?
Baquet: Four? I thought that I had only put in three.
Haberman: No, four.
Baquet: I must have added some extras.
You know we are running into criticism for our use of anonymous sources. When we made up two, that used to be enough to protect us. But nowadays I think it is better to have more – at least until the government or Google shuts down those dissident web sites. Why, most of them even undercut our arguments for endless wars. Scandalous.
Haberman: Well, Dean, that was not so smart. I may eventually have to dig up some people who are willing to say that they are the anonymous sources. And the crew over at D St. will not do that. So it will be very difficult for me. And remember I have already been outed as a stenographer for the Clinton campaign, someone who would “tee up” stories for them, someone who “never disappointed.” That already undercuts my reputation for objectivity. This is not very considerate of you, Dean.
Baquet: Look Maggie. I know how you feel, but you have to be a team player here. You must know after the hard work you have put in these last two years, you are a top contender for the Judith Miller Prize for Creative Journalism. You would not want to lose that, would you?
Haberman: OK. OK.
One other thing, Dean. You have insisted we emphasize the “Trump Obstructing Justice” narrative.
Baquet: That is not me, Maggie. Mueller is on the phone insisting on that every day. And he is a nasty SOB. The FBI has a lot on me – my career would never survive his wrath. So we will have to keep it up.
Haberman: But Dean, except for Democratic Party zealots, fewer people accept it with every passing day. How can you have obstruction of justice without a crime? And Mueller is getting to look absurd pursuing obstruction without naming the crime. Look if I went to the police and told them that I want them to investigate my neighbor for covering up a crime, they would ask first what is the crime. And if I said I did not know – yet- they would laugh me out of the station house. In fact they might even try to have me committed. How long can we pull this one off?
Baquet: Don’t worry about it. If anyone questions you and me, we will accuse them of being racists and sexists and therefore necessarily Trump supporters. And we will get plenty of backing on that – especially from NPR.
But look, now that the Russian collusion narrative has collapsed, we gotta have something. We have to press on.
Haberman (Dejected): OK, Dean.
(She leaves looking downcast.)
Baquet (to himself): Poor sucker. If we get caught out in all this, we will need a fall guy – or gal. She may be closer to the Judith Miller “prize” than she realizes.
Dear reader, if you question the validity of this recording, remember we have five anonymous sources who attest to its authenticity. The Times only has four.