President Trump’s first address before a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington last week. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Media critic

Pfhew! The New York Times has finally found the formula. For months and months, its reporting displeased Donald Trump. He called it “failing,” “inaccurate,” a “joke” and many, many other things. Now look at what’s happening — this same newspaper is now being cited as a journalistic authority by the “very famous” Trump White House. What a turnaround!

Just what has the New York Times done to accomplish this unprecedented recovery?

Wind the clock back to last spring, when Trump, then a roaring primary candidate, claimed that the New York Times had “lost its way.” Not long thereafter, two reporters with the paper published a story interviewing several women who cited mistreatment in their history with then-candidate Trump. None other than lifelong media critic Donald Trump ripped the piece on Twitter.

The New York Times stood by its reporting, though Trump’s denunciation marked a low point in its 165-year history — considering that the newspaper had never before had so many high-ranking people laughing at its stupidity. Plus, the story on women relied on too many non-anonymous sources.

The rough times continued through the summer, as the Republican candidate, the ultimate authority on himself, cited problems with the paper’s reporting on himself:

During the transition, the newspaper committed the major offense of not simply taking the word of the president-elect for how things were going:

And then came a new nadir, in February:

As it turned out, the New York Times had published a print edition before something happened. It proceeded to deliver that print edition to Washington, including the White House. And in a full-on scandal worthy of investigation by the newspaper’s public editor, it failed to recall all those print editions so that it could insert an edit to account for something that happened after publication. Never before had something happened after a newspaper published an edition. TOTAL DISASTER.

Ever resilient, the New York Times is now zooming back into respectability. In an interview just yesterday on ABC News’s “This Week,” principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited the New York Times, among other media outlets, in defending President Trump’s Saturday morning tweetstorm alleging that former president Barack Obama had tapped his “phones” during the election. “We’re taking the reports that places like The New York Times, FOX News, BBC, multiple outlets have reported this. All we’re saying is let’s take a closer look. Let’s look into this,” said Sanders. Nice work, New York Times.

Again this morning, Sanders cited this media plume in a chat with George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.”

Speaking of the president, Sanders said, “I think he firmly believes that this is a story line that has been reported pretty widely by quite a few outlets. The wiretapping has been discussed in the New York Times, BBC, Fox News.” Apparently Sanders was referring, in part, to this story in the New York Times, under the headline, “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates.” U.S. law-enforcement authorities, the article alleged, were examining these intercepted communications between Russians and “associates” of Trump, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

As Stephanopoulos noted, however, that story didn’t say quite what Sanders appeared to be suggesting. “Sarah, I have got to stop you right there. Every single article you just mentioned does not back up the president’s claim that President Obama had him wiretapped. Not a single one of those articles backs that up.”

Darn you, George Stephanopoulos: Just as this blog was painting a tidy little story about how the New York Times had pulled off a miraculous recovery, you have to cite inconvenient details. What are we to believe now? That our commander in chief and his top aides don’t apply a consistent and honest set of standards in evaluating the work of media organizations? That they cite the work of media organizations only when it suits them? That all those tweets about the “failing” New York Times weren’t based on rigorous analyses of its journalism and business model?