The New York Times' headline read: "Nikki Haley's View of New York Is Priceless. Her Curtains? $52,701." The headline clearly implied that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Haley was a profligate elitist Republican unconcerned about spending taxpayer money. As a result, the reaction was swift and strong.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted: "This is not okay. As a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I call on @HouseForeign Chairman @RepEdRoyce to hold an oversight hearing on @StateDept spending on @nikkihaley and her deputy."
David Hogg, a student gun control advocate, tweeted: "Dear Nikki Haley, There are starving children in America everyday and you have the audacity to misappropriate thousands of tax dollars for your own lavish lifestyle. Resign immediately."
One small problem -- the purchase of the curtains was authorized in 2016 during the Obama administration, and Haley had no role in it, a fact originally disclosed in the article's sixth paragraph:
"A spokesman for Ms. Haley said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, during the Obama administration. Ms. Haley had no say in the purchase, he said." Clearly, a lot of readers never reached paragraph six.
The New York Times issued a correction but not an apology. The new headline reads, "State Department Spent $52,701 on Curtains for Residence of U.N. Envoy." The edited article also moved the "plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016" sentences up two paragraphs, from sixth to fourth.
The New York Times did a similar hatchet job on then-President George Herbert Walker Bush. During the 1992 election year, a front-page story depicted a supposedly elitist president, so out of touch with the common people that Bush was unfamiliar with a supermarket checkout scanner. The headline? "Bush Encounters the Supermarket, Amazed."
The article began: "As President Bush travels the country in search of re-election, he seems unable to escape a central problem: This career politician, who has lived the cloistered life of a top Washington bureaucrat for decades, is having trouble presenting himself to the electorate as a man in touch with middle-class life."
The article then described a supposedly clueless president:
"Today, for instance, he emerged from 11 years in Washington's choicest executive mansions to confront the modern supermarket.
"Visiting the exhibition hall of the National Grocers Association convention (in Orlando, Florida), Mr. Bush lingered at the mock-up of a checkout lane. He signed his name on an electronic pad used to detect check forgeries. ...
"Then he grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner. The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.
"'This is for checking out?' asked Mr. Bush. 'I just took a tour through the exhibits here,' he told the grocers later. 'Amazed by some of the technology.'
"Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, assured reporters that he had seen the president in a grocery store. A year or so ago. In Kennebunkport.
"Some grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade."
One little problem -- no New York Times reporter covered this event. Only one "pool" newspaper journalist was there, a Houston Chronicle reporter who filed a two-paragraph report, which said nothing about a befuddled Bush who had never seen a scanner. In fact, after the Times' scanner story came out, a systems analyst for the National Grocers Association, who showed Bush the scanner, said: "The whole thing is ludicrous. What he was amazed about was the ability of the scanner to take that torn label and reassemble it."
A videotape from a pool videographer surfaced. An Associated Press story a week later said: "Bush had stopped by prearrangement at the NCR exhibit before addressing the grocers. He viewed some other high tech equipment, then walked over to the model checkout stand.
"A videotape shot by a White House press pool shows Bush saying, 'This is the scanner, the newest scanner?'
"'Of course, this looks like a typical scanner you'd see in a grocery store,' Graham replied.
"'Yeah,' said Bush.
"'There's one big difference,' said Graham, lifting off the scanner's top plate to reveal a scale underneath. He weighed and rang up a red apple.
"The exhibitor had Bush put the machine through its paces before he showed off what he called the machine's 'really quite amazing' new feature.
"He had Bush scan a card with a universal product code ripped and jumbled into five pieces. The machine read it and rang up the correct sale.
"'Isn't that something,' the President said."
George H. W. Bush lost his bid for re-election in no small measure to the way the media covered him and the economy. Despite over nearly 18 consecutive months of positive economic growth, most Americans considered the economy in recession -- presided over, according to the Times, by an out-of-touch Republican patrician.