Matthew Boyle, the Breitbart reporter known for his close relationship with Trumpland, has gotten ahold of some email traffic. From a New York Times reporter. And it is scandalous, at least according to this Breitbart headline:
Exclusive — Deep State Teams with Fake News: Email Evidence Proves New York Times Soliciting Anti-Trump Bureaucracy Leakers
Here’s the lead: “Emails from a reporter for the New York Times to government employees obtained exclusively by Breitbart News demonstrate that the newspaper’s employees are not just on the receiving end of leaks, but are actually soliciting government employees to become leakers. What’s more, the emails demonstrate the Times colluded with the president of government union to encourage and solicit these leaks—something that may become highly problematic for both institutions.”
Over the course of approximately 1,600 words, Boyle documents how New York Times reporter Coral Davenport is … seeking sources to inform her about goings-on at the Environmental Protection Agency. The smoking-gun document is an email from Davenport to John O’Grady, who as president of Chicago’s AFGE Council 238 represents workers at the agency now helmed by Trump appointee Scott Pruitt. Already this year, Davenport has provided aggressive coverage of the agency, noting, for example, how Pruitt has relied on advice from industry — and not so much on the EPA’s career braintrust — as he pursues a deregulatory agenda. That piece relied on “interviews with over 20 current and former E.P.A. senior career staff members.”
In appealing to O’Grady, Davenport is apparently seeking sources for another big heave on the EPA. “I’ve heard a lot of second-hand rumors, but in order to report these incidents, I’d need to have first-hand or eyewitness accounts,” writes Davenport in her email. “I’m looking for examples of things like, information being communicated only verbally when it would historically have been put in writing, people being told not to bring phones, laptops or even take notes in meetings where they would in the past typically have done so, eyewitness accounts of things like the administrator or top political appointees refusing to use official email, phones or computers, or any other specific, first-hand examples of practices that appear to demonstrate unprecedented secrecy or transparency.”
There’s much more to Davenport’s email, and each line is unassailable — a reporter diligently trying to find inside information critical to U.S. taxpayers. It is journalism, and its very practice is under siege from people who don’t understand it. These days the siege often targets the New York Times, whether the assailant is Matthew Boyle, the National Rifle Association, the vice president or the president. An increasing chunk of the media critic’s portfolio in these times is standing up and saying, in defense of the New York Times: This is journalism.
Consider that Breitbart is highlighting this New York Times email at a time when people such as President Trump have pointedly raised questions about whether there are actually sources behind the mainstream media’s exposés:
Take it straight from Davenport’s email: Yes, there are sources. The reporters who cite them take great pains to court and protect them, too.
Were this tract merely a piece of Breitbartian, conspiracy-driven media criticism, that’d be fine. But it’s more than that. Read Boyle’s entire story; after he hammers Davenport for seeking information on how Pruitt is running the EPA, he notes that O’Grady forwarded Davenport’s email to a number of EPA employees who might be interested in providing information to her. So what, right? Well, Breitbart is here to provide the extraordinary public service of listing names — more than 30 — to which the email was supposedly forwarded.
Nice move, Breitbart. You’ve scolded the New York Times, possibly stifled its sources and assisted the Trump EPA with a potential leak investigation, all in one post.