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Crowdgate II:  Alternative facts from The New York Times

Crowdgate II: Alternative facts from The New York Times

The paper of record publishes erroneous photo comparison for New England Patriots White House visit

By Tatiana Prophet
Editor-in-chief

All the news that's fit to print. And some school yard taunts, as well.

On Wednesday, the Times Sports Twitter account tweeted a photo comparison of the crowd size for the New England Patriots' visit to the Trump White House versus the 2015 visit to the Obama White House. While both photos were taken on the steps overlooking the South Lawn, the comparison was wrong; there were 40 support staff members on the steps in 2015, and only players and management in 2017. The tweet was retweeted more than 51,000 times, and remains up. But it's now clear that the Times jumped the gun in its eagerness to perhaps duplicate that magical image from the inauguration that garnered so much derision for the new president.

The tweet was promoting an article covering the ceremony. The article also showed the comparison.

And the article has a lot of good info. The truth is, 34 players (out of the 53 on the Super Bowl roster) attended the ceremony on Wednesday. In 2015, 50 players attended the ceremony with President Obama. So there were fewer players -- with various reasons for not attending. And Tom Brady skipped both ceremonies, for family reasons. And yes, a few players voiced their feelings of not being welcome at the White House with its current occupant, even saying it would be the "wrong" thing to do and a bad example to their children.

But the truth also is, there were almost the same number of players who went to the Bush White House in 2005, as the Times story itself points out. As the Patriots pointed out in a later tweet, a fairer comparison would be between 2017 and 2005, which shared a double Super Bowl win for the Patriots in three years.

The reason for this critique is that the photo comparison was not only wrong, it was a sign of a large media corporation engaging in school yard tactics.

To be fair, Donald Trump has left the door wide open for rating just about everything, from models (Heidi Klum) to reality show host ratings (failing, of course, for Arnold Schwarzenegger). But the last time I checked on journalism ethics, lowering standards because "so-and-so did it" is not listed in the professional journalist's Code of Ethics.

By Wednesday evening, The New York Times published a correction at the end of the article, as is customary, noting that the photo had been removed.

But the tweet remains up, as do several articles continuing to maintain that the photos embarrass the president.

Still, The New York TImes public editor wrote a column about the incident, saying several readers were upset that the paper would give any ammunition to Trump supporters.

And Chris Cilizza, formerly of The Fix at the Washington Post, now CNN Editor-at-Large, wrote a withering column about how irrelevant such a comparison was, when covering Trump and his actions.

I have to agree wth Cilizza. Most of the outrage I see being directed Trump's way is based on superficial faux pas that make no difference in policy, the economy or equality. And unfortunately, these sorts of stories indicate no change in tactics by Trump's opposition, from their behavior before the election.

Jason Stallman, the Times sports editor, sent an apology to Yahoo's political editor, saying "I'm an idiot." Thank you, Jason. Well done apology. I wish more people in our society could do the same.

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