New York Times Pretends Trump Supporters Are Swing Voters

In the midst of my OCD-fueled frenzy of clicking refresh on Twitter to get more impeachment news, I came across a remarkable Twitter thread that deserves more eyeballs from Americans, in part because the New York Times seems to be busily falling back into fraudulent “both sides” reporting surrounding Trump and his associates’ attempts to extort Ukraine into fabricating dirt on his political opponent, Joe Biden.

Just as in 2016, with the Times giving far more credence and attention to Hillary Clinton’s emails than to the Russian interference in our election, in 2019, they leapt into giving credence to the Joe Biden rumors (which have been debunked for quite a while now).

But is this really just a misguided attempt at “balance”? Or is it deliberate?

The paper has been rightly criticized for focusing too much attention on white rural America at the expense of the majority of voters, especially people of color. What I certainly didn’t realize until recently was that not only is the Times focusing on a minority of voters, it is interviewing some of the same people, over and over again, often portraying them as “swing voters.”

In other words, not only are they focusing a large chunk of column inches on a minority of Americans, they are interviewing an even tinier percentage of that minority. And we know this thanks to pollster Matt McDermott, who apparently noticed the same names coming up repeatedly and looked into it. His full thread is here. The article he is discussing is “Elated, Furious, Wary: Impeachment Divides Voters, Like Everything Trump,” by Trip Gabriel, Jack Healy, and Sabrina Tavernise. Technically, McDermott is responding to one of the authors’ tweets of the article, which mentions talking with swing voters. That tweet has since been deleted, and I unfortunately do not have a screenshot.


The article Donna Burgraff appeared in last year is “They Voted for Obama, Then Went for Trump. Can Democrats Win Them Back?”, by Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff. In addition to McDermott’s points, note that Donna Burgraff last voted for Obama in 2008, not 2012, so if she “swung” at all, she did so nearly a decade ago. She describes herself as a reluctant Trump voter, which, in case anyone needs this clarified, still makes her a Trump supporter. And she didn’t swing from Obama to Trump. She swung from Obama to whoever she voted for in 2012. That’s pretty much the last year she could be considered a swing voter (if even then).

McDermott continues:


To be fair to the Times reporters, I don’t think they intended to portray rally queen Trisha Hope as a swing voter. Not in this article, or the time they interviewed her on September 10; or on October 11, 2018; or on October 22, 2018. (Why has the Times interviewed Trisha so often? Are they having trouble finding Trump supporters?)

The phrase “Republican supporters of Mr. Trump, as well as some moderates who had crossed over to vote for him in 2016” introduces us to the aforementioned Donna Burgraff (not a swing voter) and Reggie Dickerson, whose portrait of Robert E. Lee in his living room shows us two things about him: he has an affinity for racist traitors, and he is definitely not a swing voter. But these are the only two people interviewed after the promise that at least one of them would be a “moderate[] who had crossed over to vote for [Trump].”

Ultimately, I did not find a single swing voter in the “Impeachment Divides Voters” article, which makes it just one of the New York Times‘s many useless articles telling us the “news” that Trump supporters support Trump, and Democrats don’t, but while implying with the headline and now-deleted social media promotion that these voters will include anyone genuinely on the fence. I still don’t know for sure whether any of this is deliberate framing or simply lazy journalism, but in the end, the damage is the same for Americans who rely on our free press to tell us what is actually going on.

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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