A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.
An election-eve assessment by The New York Times about whether President Donald Trump had kept or broken his campaign promises entirely ignored Trump’s following through on his pledges to exit the Iran nuclear deal and move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The article appeared in print on November 1 under the headline “Did the President Keep His First-Term Promises?” It’s a reasonable question — the sort of question that undecided voters headed to the polls in what turned out to be a close contest might have wanted to have answered.
Yet the Times article goes on for more than 1,800 words without the word “Iran” or “Jerusalem.” The article is without a single mention of two kept foreign policy promises that pro-Israel voters, including Jewish voters, might care about.
Trump himself used his Republican National Convention speech accepting the nomination to remind voters that he had kept those promises: “I withdrew from the terrible one-sided Iran nuclear deal. Unlike many presidents before me, I kept my promise, recognized Israel’s true capital and moved our Embassy to Jerusalem. But not only did we talk about it as a future site; we got it built. Rather than spending $1 billion on a new building as planned, we took an already owned, existing building in a better location. Real estate deal, right? And opened it at a cost of less than $500,000.”
Did the Times reporters miss the Trump speech?
One doesn’t need to be some kind of right-wing or Jewish media outlet to acknowledge Trump’s follow-through on these issues. When Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, NBC News reported it under the headline “Trump kept his promise on Iran. But was it the right promise?” The NBC News analysis by Andrea Mitchell began, “As he announced the end of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, President Donald Trump told the nation, ‘When I make promises, I keep them.’ And he did, in fact, campaign on a promise to tear up the deal on Day One (though the action actually came on Day 474). The sense that the president was keeping a promise to his political base was made very clear in a statement quickly issued by the Trump re-election campaign, headlined: ‘A Promise Kept on the Iran Nuclear Deal.’”
Instead of Jerusalem or Iran, the Times article focuses on the border wall with Mexico, cutting taxes, appointing conservative judges, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and renegotiating trade deals.
This effort was the third such attempt by the Times in recent months to check on whether Trump has kept his promises. A September opinion column by Nicholas Kristof was headlined “‘I Keep My Promises,’ Trump Said. Let’s Check.” It billed itself as “a report card on whether the president met his 2016 campaign pledges.” That column, too, ignored both the Iran nuclear deal and the Jerusalem embassy.
An October episode of the Times podcast “The Daily” also tackled the promises-kept question. “We look at whether Mr. Trump has made good on his commitments from 2016,” is how the episode was introduced. The podcast did, to its credit, acknowledge, “He pulled us out of the Iran nuclear accord, which was meant to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for them promising not to build a nuclear weapon.” That podcast, however, entirely ignored the Jerusalem embassy move, too. “The Daily” host Michael Barbaro did acknowledge what he described as “a fairly long and meaningful list of promises kept.” That’s better than the Times news article, which only offered, “In reality, Mr. Trump has broken about half of 100 campaign promises, according to a tracker by PolitiFact.” The tracker handles the Iran deal by describing it as a broken promise to renegotiate the Iran deal, which is a strange way to handle it — and the opposite of how “The Daily” podcast handled it.
Is it too much to ask the Times to serve readers who might care about these promises? It seems like just the most recent example of the Times’ weird blind spot when it comes to Jewish issues. I can understand why the Times would prefer to forget or omit the Jerusalem embassy move, to pretend it never even happened. The newspaper looks silly, because the Times predicted the move would cause violence and prevent peace. In fact, peace agreements have ensued. In the run-up to an election, though, voters deserved straightforward and complete information to make informed decisions, not news tilted or filtered to avoid embarrassing the Times for its past mistakes.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.