NYT Magazine’s Hack Attack on Rep. Devin Nunes: Catnip for the Frustrated Left

April 29th, 2018 5:41 PM

The New York Times Sunday magazine devoted 5,000 words to a hostile profile of Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is infuriating liberals by blocking the narrative of Russia-Trump “collusion” during Campaign 2016.

The Times is clearly trying to paint Nunes as a conspiratorial figure, as shown by the title to Jason Zengerle’s piece -- the tagline from the influential U.F.O. conspiracy show, The X-Files: “The Truth Is Out There.” The subhead: “In inquiries on Benghazi and Russia and beyond, the California congressman has displayed a deep mistrust of the expert consensus on reality -- a disposition that has helped him make friends in the current White House.”

Zengerle is also political correspondent for GQ, the men’s fashion mag with a prominent sideline in snotty liberalism. He trumpeted the piece on Twitter: “My latest for the @NYTmag on Devin Nunes, who's been propagating (and/or falling for) conspiracy theories since before the Deep State was even in a gleam in Donald Trump's eye.”

But The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway defenestrated Zengerle’s misleading-at-best work point by point: “....the case he attempts to make is riddled with errors and full of embarrassing and deliberate material omissions.”

Hemingway says Zengerle got many things wrong, including mischaracterizing the cache of documents “collected from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, showing that Al Qaeda was much stronger than the administration publicly contended.” Hemingway explained:

There are multiple problems with this supposed example of Nunes being a conspiracy theorist who chases after illusory and meaningless things. Primarily, it was Rogers and the intelligence officials who were wrong, and Nunes, Mike Pompeo, independent analysts, and others pushing for transparency who were right.

The cache did, in fact, dispute the public claims of the Barack Obama administration, which had overtly political reasons for claiming al-Qaeda was being defeated. Far from conspiratorial, Nunes’ pursuit of transparency was quite successful....Far from being a right-wing conspiracy theory, the view that al-Qaeda was stronger than the Obama administration publicly contended has even been made by the Obama administration officials themselves.

Hemingway faulted Zengerle’s underlying trust-the-government premise.

The article’s central thesis -- that good oversight is done by being a good boy and dutifully receiving and accepting reports from intelligence agencies, not by diligently scrutinizing those agencies -- is repeated elsewhere. Former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., of all people, is praised for studying reports from intelligence agencies in contrast to Nunes, who does his own research. It’s a dubious assertion, and a poorly made argument.

Zengerle wrote:

In March 2017, the committee started an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections in order to produce, as Nunes promised at the time, a “bipartisan” and “definitive” report. But since then, Nunes has used the committee only to sow confusion -- confusion that has benefited Trump....Indeed, Nunes has already begun laying the groundwork to discredit Mueller’s work before it is even completed.... Years before the Russia investigation, he was extremely skeptical of -- if not paranoid about -- the American military and intelligence establishments in a way that presaged Trump’s denunciations of the “deep state.” Now he and Trump are waging war against these foes, real and imagined, together.

Another example of Nunes’ supposed conspiracy-mongering from Zangerle was also shown false by Hemingway -- his college activism about the imperiled campus farm of his alma mater, The College of the Sequoias. Of the farm incident, she wrote: “Zengerle’s story was wrong and he deliberately omitted key facts that upend it.” She even talked to one of his sources, who accuses Zengerle of quoting him misleadingly.

Zengerle also passed along anonymous accusations of Nunes being “out of his depth” on the Intelligence Committee, while refusing to criticize Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member constantly on sympathetic media outlets promising, as Hemingway puts it, “conclusive evidence of treasonous collusion with Russia” that somehow never actually transpires.