Maggie Haberman Says Biden Running ‘Flawed Campaign’ — Apparently Because He Followed Coronavirus Precautions


New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman reaped a social media whirlwind when she declared Joe Biden a “very flawed candidate” who’s “running a flawed campaign” without offering any support for the statement. Then, she made it worse.

On Monday night’s edition of AC360, Haberman gave a clear reading of Trump’s disastrous Tulsa rally, and particularly of the naked racism in evidence. She cited Trump’s “Kung Flu” remark and his talk about “our heritage,” identifying it as “white grievance politics” that Trump thinks “appeals to some of his supporters, if not all.”

She also called out the public health risk of the rally, noting that “the majority of the public is still afraid of coronavirus, they’re afraid of catching it.”

These were good, solid call-outs, which made Haberman’s later attempt at balancing things out all the more jarring. Along with some solid, if obvious, analysis about how Democrats shouldn’t take a Biden win for granted, and shouldn’t read too much into the crowd-size debacle in Tulsa, she threw in this gem:

Look, as much trouble as Donald Trump is in politically right now, a lot of it of his own making but certainly not all of it, Joe Biden is still a very flawed candidate. He is running a flawed campaign so far.

That remark drew immediate backlash online from Biden supporters, backlash that snowballed after former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Neera Tanden asked if anyone had the video, and I obliged.

There are several problems with Haberman’s sentence here, not the least of which is referring to Biden as a “very flawed candidate” in the same breath as an assessment of Trump — whom she has just called out over a nakedly racist rally that risked lives by flouting public health guidelines. Every candidate — with the possible exception of that progressive Democrat from Galilee — is flawed, but if you’re going to say someone is “very flawed” next to Donald Trump, you really ought to back it up/have your eyesight examined.

Haberman’s invocation of the 2016 election wasn’t helpful to her cause either, as she ignored her own role in super-charging the “But Her Emails” narrative that had some effect on that outcome.

But these are basically matters of opinion and (bad) taste.

The chief problem, as Tanden noted, is that Haberman offered no support for the claim that Biden is running a flawed campaign. Until she did.

In response to the stiff criticism she was receiving online, Haberman wrote “As always I admire your efforts, especially in a segment where I talked about the hole the president is in, but given the amount of times Biden’s own supporters have joked about him staying in the basement, I’m missing where this is the scandal you’re trying to make it.”

There are several problems with this assertion as well — as I pointed out, Biden supporters have been supportive of the former vice president’s leadership in following public health guidelines, and Biden has been out of “the basement” for several weeks. That’s what gave Trump the opportunity to mock him for wearing a mask in public in the first place: he was in public.

Haberman appears to have surrendered on that point. When challenged to provide examples of said Biden supporters, Haberman instead tweeted a list of links to her articles that are critical of Trump.

But the most troubling part of Haberman’s response is that she appears to be identifying Biden’s decision to follow his state’s lockdown order as the aforementioned “flaw” in his campaign — the only such example she’s given.

You could fairly say that the lockdown has been a disadvantage for Biden’s campaign — although there is even some disagreement on that point. Biden himself has argued, rather persuasively, that it hasn’t hurt him at all.

But to name that the sole “flaw” is pretty remarkable, especially given how Haberman herself has been calling Trump out for ignoring coronavirus mitigation efforts. For Biden to have done otherwise would have been dangerous, to himself and other Americans.

And on the other hand, there are facts that suggest Biden is running a pretty good campaign, apart from the pandemic curtailing his public appearances: he’s crushing Trump in the polls, he has made the most of the moments he’s chosen to speak out publicly, and he outraised the Trump “Death Star” by $5 million in May.

Haberman found a posse of right-wing defenders who decried the effort to “cancel” her, as well as one fellow CNN analyst who offered some gentle disagreement.

Former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart wrote “I think we all need to calm down a little about @maggieNYT comment. She’s speaking as an analyst on @CNN Her job is to have analysis. I disagree with her. Biden is flawed, just like every politician I’ve ever worked with. But his candidacy is not. He is the perfect foil for Trump.”

Lockhart is correct that everyone is entitled to a bad analysis now and then, and I don’t think Maggie Haberman should be “canceled,” but he and her right-wing defenders are missing the point. Her analysis, particularly of Biden’s campaign, was baseless. In fact, it was worse than that because she provided a basis to conclude the opposite elsewhere in the same segment. Every journalist needs to do better, and remember that there doesn’t always have to be something on the other hand.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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