New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt has felt the brunt of Clintonian pushback. He’s one of the reporters — along with Matt Apuzzo — who ended up at the center of an all-consuming brouhaha in July 2015 over the investigation surrounding Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Her campaign switched into crisis mode — objecting, emailing, fighting, taking issue.
The result? A pair of corrections and an editor’s note — not a great moment for the New York Times.
As the paper’s own subsequent investigation later determined, however, all the parsing over the July 2015 article was an expedition to Overkill Overlook: A full-on criminal investigation into Clinton’s email use had already been underway. “It was, in fact, a criminal investigation. From the very beginning,” New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told the Erik Wemple Blog about the evolution.
Along with his colleagues at the New York Times, Schmidt these days trains his investigative focus on Team Trump and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. There have been several exclusives that have placed the president in an unflattering light, yielding grounds for comparison. “The Clintons are in some ways more challenging to cover than Trump just as a journalist because they will push back and be so in your face and are ready to litigate and fight you at every corner,” said Schmidt in a recent chat with Terry Gross of “Fresh Air.”
“The president, for as loud as he is, is less sophisticated in the media area. Hillary Clinton has folks that work for her that are top Washington lawyers, that are really seasoned PR folks that know how the game works. The president doesn’t have that strong of a bench. He has a big megaphone. And he stands on the highest point in town and he screams at you and he says, ‘You’re full of it, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you’re fake news.’ And then he kind of moves along. He doesn’t have the legions behind him in the way that Clinton does to really force you to defend and be willing to sustain a real good fight about what you’ve written.”
As Schmidt tells it, those blasts aren’t coupled with fierceness from the president’s communications outfit. “In Trump’s world, there’s sort of him, sort of shouting at you from his Twitter account, and there’s stuff from his supporters and then it kind of goes away and they move on to something else," said Schmidt. “It’s not as organized or sustained when they come back after us. They’re not looking to try and use little problems in the story to try and undermine the larger part of it. They just say you guys are a bunch of liars or you’re on the take and move on.”
Figures, right? The Trump White House has trouble drafting error-free press releases; how’s it going to do battle with the New York Times?