How Many New York Times Reporters Does It Take to Count to Six?

ElectionsMediaWhite House New York Times
How Many New York Times Reporters Does It Take to Count to Six?

The answer appears to be five. That’s how many bylines appear on an honestly baffling counter sort of page among the New York Times’s increasingly baffling election coverage titled “Which Democrats Have Called for Biden to Drop Out of the Race?” It is headed by a large-print tally of the prominent Party folks — House Members, Senators, and Governors — who have publicly joined the post-debate pile-on and pushed to replace the sitting president with Kamala Harris or some other nebulous contender.

As of this writing, the total number of people who have done so is six. All are House Members, of the 213 Democrats currently in office. There are big zeros for the 47 Senators and 23 governors.Image of an NYT page showing the Biden counter

There are only two reasons why the paper of record would build such a page to feature prominently among its campaign coverage. Either they think that number is bound to rise, or they want it to. And unless the Times newsroom has some crystal ball we don’t know about it, it can’t be the former.

Since President Biden’s disastrous debate performance almost two weeks ago, the Times has led what can only be described as crusade. They have published literally hundreds of stories and op-eds on Biden’s unfitness for office (or, confusingly enough, his unfitness to campaign but without a call to resign the country’s highest office), offered whispered back-room reporting on major donor worries, and even presented an expert visiting the White House as tacit evidence of a major illness.

Clearly, there are obvious, reasonable discussions to have about the president’s ability to both do his job and defeat Trump in November. This is not a reasonable way to have those discussions.

As Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie said recently on Bluesky: “[O]ne of the most dishonest things people in my profession do is pretend as if ‘the story’ and ‘the narrative’ isn’t something they have direct control over.”

The number of people required to publish all those stories, and greenlight those op-eds, and approve and build a counter that as of now (I took a break, it’s a couple hours later and the number is still six) shows just over two percent of national-level elected Democrats want the president to drop out — it’s substantial. This is an entire newsroom so deeply steeped in its own juices that it can’t see the absurdity of that counter, like the saddest high school nerd mounting a prom king campaign and watching while all the votes pile up on the other side of the room.

And they are piling up. By late on Monday, Biden — doddering fool that he supposedly is — seems to have outmaneuvered the six elected officials and countless frothing pundits calling for his disappearance, and Democrats as prominent as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were pronouncing the matter closed. “Joe Biden is our nominee,” she said according to the, um, New York Times. “He is not leaving this race, he is in this race, and I support him.” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, among the many politicians wishcast as a theoretical replacement, said Biden “has my full support.”

Maybe the counter will start to tick up a bit, who knows. And maybe throwing a few more bylines at the problem will tilt the scales further. Maybe the endless campaign cycle we’re all stuck in makes this sort of dip into absurd waters inevitable. Or maybe a publication so fully invested in an election producing “drama” will always fall into those waters head first.

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