On Thursday, New York Times reporters Michael Shear and Thomas Kaplan disregarded their basic journalistic commitment to the facts, trumpeting former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as the “first openly gay cabinet member” on Thursday in “Biden Adds Buttigieg to His ‘Cabinet of Barrier-Breakers.’” But by rushing to praise Biden for "barrier-breaking," The Times is actually contradicting its previous reporting.
The reporters opened with an odd point bashing the state of social conservatism in Congress a generation ago:
Pete Buttigieg was a teenager, not yet openly gay, and had dreams of being an airline pilot when he watched Republicans in the late 1990s deny a confirmation vote to President Bill Clinton’s choice for ambassador to Luxembourg because of his sexual orientation.
Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, the majority leader at the time, called homosexuality a sin and compared it with personal problems like alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction. Blocked by his adversaries, Mr. Clinton used a recess appointment to send James Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist and heir to a meatpacking fortune, overseas.
Now, two decades later, Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and earlier this year a primary race opponent of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s, is poised to become the first openly gay cabinet secretary after Mr. Biden, now the president-elect, picked him to run the Transportation Department. Mr. Buttigieg recalled the teenage memory during brief remarks on Wednesday.
How heart-warming. But is it actually true? Where's the snarky CNN chyrons tearing down The Times?
The liberal paper laid it on thick: “With Mr. Biden seated nearby during his remarks, Mr. Buttigieg recalled proposing to his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, in an airport terminal -- ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that O’Hare isn’t romantic,’ he joked -- and thanked the president-elect for not wavering from the history-making nomination.”
Shear and Kaplan let Biden pat himself on the back for his “cabinet of firsts”:
Mr. Biden, who seemed annoyed by public and private criticism of his choices so far, said that when he was finished, he would have “a cabinet of barrier-breakers, a cabinet of firsts” unlike any of his predecessors’.
“We’ll have more people of color than any cabinet, ever. We’ll have more women than any cabinet, ever,” he said, noting that he has picked the first Black defense secretary, the first Latino head of homeland security, the first woman of South Asian descent to lead the budget office and the first woman to be Treasury secretary, among others. “Our cabinet doesn’t just have one first or just two of these firsts, but eight precedent-busting appointments.”
“And today,” he added, “a ninth.”
So adamant are the media against giving Trump credit, even for doing things that they would normally applaud, that it pretends this barrier wasn’t broken already by Richard Grenell, who served three months (February to May 2020) as acting director of national intelligence, a cabinet-level post. That means that, as many conservatives have pointed out, Buttigieg would not be the first “openly gay cabinet secretary.”
The Times offered some weird technicalities to try and argue that Buttigieg would actually be the first: “There has never been an openly gay cabinet secretary. Under President Trump, Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, served as acting director of national intelligence, a cabinet-level post that is not part of the 15 cabinet posts defined by federal law. He also did not face Senate confirmation because Mr. Trump chose to make him an acting director.”
MRC Culture on TV writer Lindsay Kornick argued:
….Pundits such as Jake Tapper instead attempted to work around this fact by labeling Buttigieg as potentially the first “Senate-confirmed” LGBTQ cabinet member, noting Grenell was not confirmed by the Senate in his term. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that Trump was the first president to have an openly gay cabinet member. Even some of these leftist sites seemed to have recognize that in the past.
The Times certainly did, writing at least two stories that cited Grenell as the first openly gay cabinet member (albeit without approaching the enthusiasm the paper is now displaying for Buttigieg).
Here was a highlight from a February 19 story: “Mr. Grenell, who has pushed to advance gay rights in his current post, is also thought to be the first openly gay cabinet member. And let's take a peak at a sentence from an April 22 story: “Mr. Grenell is thought to be the first openly gay cabinet member and has put anti-discrimination issues near the top of his agenda.”