I have to confess that I had forgotten the history behind the NYT's incessantly negative coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton (and yes, I know, the editorial page has endorsed them both, but I'm talking about news coverage). But thanks to Esquire political blogger (and onetime MSJ sports writer) Charlie Pierce I have been reminded of the outsize role the NYT has played in defining both Clintons, directly and through its influence on other coverage: "The fact is that the Times and the Clintons have been locked in this solipsistic dance of destruction ever since Jeff Gerth wrote the first botched story about Whitewater during the 1992 presidential campaign. It has defined the newspaper and the family, one to another. Somehow, Being Tough on the Clintons has become one of the ways the Times has tried to prove its journalistic bona fides to the country and the world."
After that the Times had a cottage industry built around Clinton coverage. (For example, Amy Chozik, who led last year's presidential campaign reporting team, says on her website that she's a NYT reporter covering Hillary Clinton--a one-person beat.) Over the years the NYT has taken the lead on negative Clinton coverage, "including some truly odious work by the late William Safire, who beat his little tin drum not only on Whitewater, but on TravelGate, FileGate, and whatever other fantasies he was fed by the Republicans in Congress and by the sieve that was Ken Starr's office. In one 1996 column, Safire memorably called HRC 'a congenital liar,' and in January of 1997, he assured his readers that indictments were imminent on the FileGate story. They were not, but Indictments Are Imminent became a genre of the Times' Clinton coverage unto the most recent campaign,." The fact that this barrage was coming from the NYT has given these various pseudo-scandals currency among liberals (not to mention the rest of the political spectrum) for a generation.
The culmination of this saga came last year: "In July, the Times ran a shoddy story in which the newspaper reported that a criminal investigation into HRC's famous use of a private email server had been launched by the Department of Justice. The story fell apart almost immediately, and then-public editor Margaret Sullivan burned the bones of it in a subsequent column. This was bad reporting...For more than 25 years now, it was the Times that wrote the Clinton Rules and brought them down the mountain as surely as Charlton Heston brought the tablets of the law down Mount Horeb. This is a great newspaper with people who do great work, but one that somehow leaves its greatness between the cushions of the sofa when it comes to dealing with one family in our politics. It's truly weird." Yes, it is.