AN EYE OPENING CONVERSATION WITH THE NY TIMES’ DEAN BAQUET
I wasn’t expecting to be called a moron by Dean Baquet, the head of the New York Times, when I woke up this morning. I blame it on Donald Trump’s friend ‘Jim’, who no longer goes to Paris anymore, and who may or may not exist, and Meredith McIver, a longtime Trump staff writer who also has some questions pending — at least to some — about her existence.
Speaking of Meredith, some people like myself have been trying to find her for almost a year now. You remember her — she’s the woman who stepped forward to accept responsibility for plagiarizing Michelle Obama for Melania Trump’s GOP Convention speech. The New York Times — along with other ‘elite’ news organizations — wrote puff-pieces about this former ballerina (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/us/politics/melania-trump-speech-meredith-mciver.html?mcubz=1&_r=0), but no one could seem to speak to her or even find her.
This woman’s invisibility wouldn’t normally be a huge issue — except for the fact that Donald Trump has invented employees before. See: former spokesmen John Miller and John Barron. So with a precedent of past similar fraud, many people like myself believe that the burden of proof is now higher, and the way to prove Meredith’s existence is to actually lay eyes on her.
(Some point to former Guardian Reporter Gaby Wood’s tweet about her 5 second encounter with Meredith 10 years ago, but Wood has since said she doesn’t remember the encounter well. We think a more solid, current sighting is warranted, as we’re also curious if Meredith’s invisibility over the years is a result of an illness of some kind — dementia? a stroke? — and Trump has been using her as a scapegoat…which in some ways would be worse than simply inventing her.)
But we never got that solid, visual verification, and the way that everyone from Snopes to the New York Times defended their reporting would be to link to an article written by a reporter from another publication who also failed to meet or speak to Meredith (see UPDATE below). We find this unacceptable, and part of a larger pattern of failures by the press during the ’16 campaign. Maybe if they had been more aggressive in calling out Trump on his lies instead of elevating ‘emails’ to an absurd degree, or if they’d refused to sacrifice accuracy for access, or if they’d focused less on becoming television stars themselves, etc., we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now. After all, it was a pretty close election — Trump only won by negative 3 million votes.
(I’m not saying the press is entirely responsible for President Trump. I’m just saying that they played a role, and until they do some self-reflection, we’re in danger of something like this happening again.)
Which brings us to Trump’s friend ‘Jim’, who can’t go to Paris anymore because of all the crime and terrorism, says Trump. Well, the AP is now questioning ‘Jim’s’ existence, as he’s as invisible as, well, Meredith McIver.
I’d been in touch with Dean Baquet in the days after Melania’s speech, when I emailed him suggesting some harder questions about Meredith should be asked. He responded: ‘really interesting.’ But that would be the last I’d hear from Dean…until now.
When news of the mysterious ‘Jim’ broke last night, I thought I’d circle back with him, sending him the link to the AP story about him. The ensuing e-mail conversation was very eye-opening:
On Jul 13, 2017, at 9:29 AM, Brian Friedman wrote:
sure, i’m ridiculous to think trump invents people. https://apnews.com/e18f254c4ac84e6bab4ceed56401cc65
To my surprise, Dean responded quickly:
Sorry Brian but what we are working in is more important right now.
what could be more important than making sure your star reporters didn’t make a mistake that a high school newspaper wouldn’t make?
Dean answers fairly demonstratively:
Breaking a fucking story about whether russia influenced the election
My response: again Dean — this is about YOU and YOUR paper, not Trump.
Dean: You’ve lost it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Me: of COURSE I know what’s going on with Trump and Russia — but that DOESN’T CHANGE THE FACT that if it comes out your reporters wrote a puff piece about a fake or incapacitated person, YOU and your ENTIRE PAPER will look SILLY. It will LESSEN your credibility when you do write about Russia, or anything else.
I then felt the need to add: and the fact that YOU don’t get THAT shows that the TIMES is under very poor leadership indeed.
(Okay, yeah, I went a little nuts with the CAPS LOCK.)
And Dean’s eloquent response:
From: Dean Baquet
To: Brian Friedman
Go away moron
After that, Dean advised that I seek psychiatric help, and that proved to be the end of the conversation.
So, to sum up, we really don’t know if Meredith McIver is real, alive, and well— she may very well be. But I know the explanations from Team Trump for what happened at the time were completely ridiculous — one involved Sean Spicer and a My Little Pony box (please, Google it); I know that other people searching for Meredith have received anonymous threats; I know that a phone conversation I had with Meredith’s alleged ex-boyfriend, Stephen Palitz, led to far more questions than answers; I know that fake social media accounts for Meredith popped up immediately after she accepted blame…and suddenly and inexplicably began communicating in Russian before disappearing again; and I know that, overall, more questions should’ve been asked — then and throughout the campaign — because Trump has definitely not provided anyone with a reason to give him the benefit of the doubt.
UPDATE: In response to this article, an editor at the Times named Patrick LaForge did exactly what I said they did above — he linked to a year-old Snopes article in which their reporter did not meet or speak to Meredith, further proving my point. When I called him on it, he blocked me. I find that cowardly.