NYT Scribe Loathes Righty Activists: Don’t Edit Clips and Badger People, That’s Our Job!

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New York Times reporter Ken Bensinger covers “right-wing media and national campaigns,” and the hostility and clear revulsion he felt toward right-wing figures, and credulity toward the story of every single migrant he encountered, is evident in every word of “How the Right Shapes the Immigration Debate from Panama,” his long expose that led Thursday’s paper. 

Online, the headline was “Chasing Clicks in the Jungle: Right-Wing Influencers Descend on the Darién Gap” Descend! Bensinger’s story began:

Ayub Ibrahim had just walked out of the jungle. His feet still ached. A month earlier, he had left his home in Somalia, fleeing a civil war, he said, traveling first to Turkey, then Brazil and finally crossing on foot through a 66-mile expanse of wilderness known as the Darién Gap.

Resting in the sweltering San Vicente migrant camp in Panama with hundreds of other recent arrivals, he suddenly found himself surrounded by a half-dozen Americans with video cameras.

“Do you guys like Ilhan Omar?” one person asked. “What do you think about Joe Biden?”

Mr. Ibrahim, 20, answered the questions. He said he liked and admired Ms. Omar, the first Somali-American to serve in Congress. He doesn’t follow American politics, he added, but thinks Mr. Biden is a good president. When asked if Mr. Biden or former President Donald J. Trump would be better for immigrants, he chose Mr. Biden.

Bensinger would never dare suggest the anti-Semitic Omar actually deserved any criticism.

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Later, Mr. Ibrahim would say he had felt ambushed and confused by the questions. He hadn’t intended to make a political statement.

But by then, it was too late.

Too late for what? Anyway, it’s good to see the Times come out against ambush journalism, which the mainstream media has practiced for years. But this time, it’s a MAGA influencer:

One of his questioners, Laura Loomer, a right-wing activist and former Republican candidate for Congress, had already posted an edited video of the conversation online. It had rocketed around the internet, amassing nearly two million views on X.

As if the news networks (and the Times itself) have never edited a video in a way that alters the meaning of what was said.

As immigration becomes a dominant issue in the 2024 presidential race, right-wing media has been awash in gritty and often deceptive videos of migrants emerging from the Darién Gap, a roadless stretch of Panamanian jungle that has become a bottleneck for thousands of people on their way to the United States.

The clips are presented as proof of what Republicans often describe as an “invasion” of Muslim terrorists, Chinese spies and Latin American criminals. Posted widely on social media, the videos blame President Biden for the migration and suggest, falsely, that Democrats are encouraging it to create new, illegal voters. International aid organizations are cast as profiteers making money off human misery.

The New York Times traced much of that content to the work of Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who over the past three years has become the go-to tour guide for right-wing journalists, politicians and social-media influencers wanting to see the Darién Gap firsthand.

The Times did its own sneaky investigative reporting on rival border influencers.

The Times followed one group as it toured camps on the edge of the Darién Gap, observing and recording as participants, interviewed migrants and shot video. The reporters, producers and influencers gravitated toward migrants from Africa, China and the Middle East, barraging them with politically loaded questions.

Again, this all sounds like standard operating procedure by the media. They just don’t like it when it’s done by non-liberals.

When asked whether he had been given money by the United Nations or humanitarian groups, Mr. Ibrahim said he had not. He also said that as a Muslim he supported equal rights for women and was opposed to discrimination against gay people. Those portions of the interview were cut from the version posted online and missing from Ms. Loomer’s later accounts.

The reporter tried to quell U.S. security fears: Hey, Panama is screening migrants for criminal or terrorist connections! The reporter stacked the deck against his subjects, tarring them as dangerous in his readership’s eyes, noting the presence of Yon (“A swaggering Special Forces veteran”) outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

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