The New York Times has been forced to walk back a tweet comparing the number of New England Patriots who visited President Obama after winning the Super Bowl in 2015 to the number who visited President Trump on Wednesday.
Here was the original tweet, sent Wednesday afternoon, which features comparable photos of the 2015 and 2017 Patriots delegations.
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) April 19, 2017
The Patriots responded Wednesday night that the Times’ 2017 photo was misleading because it didn’t include football staff, who were in the 2015 photo.
These photos lack context. Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs. In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn. https://t.co/iIYtV0hR6Y
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017
A Patriots spokesman told the Times that 34 players visited the White House on Wednesday, compared to around 50 in 2015.
To surprise of absolutely positively no one, Trump responded to the Times’ on Twitter, accusing the paper of lying.
Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to W.H.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2017
None of this was a particularly good look for the Times, especially in light of the perception that the paper has an anti-Trump slant.
Perhaps for this reason, the Times’ sports editor issued a statement to Yahoo’s Colin Campbell in which he profusely apologized for the tweet comparing the delegation sizes.
You pretty much don’t get apologies more straight-forward and self-deprecating than this one:
NYT Sports editor gave me a pretty effusive statement on that Trump/Patriots-crowd-size-comparison tweet: pic.twitter.com/yrvyuCPybp
— Colin Campbell (@colincampbell) April 20, 2017
Campbell didn’t attribute this quote to a specific person, but the New York Times’ sports editor is Jason Stallman.
The Times’ sports section has had a weird month. Two weeks ago, the paper’s public editor wrote an odd column questioning why Times’ sportswriters were writing beautiful features instead of dry game stories. The sports section sent some passive aggressive tweets, and the story passed.
Now the section is back in the news, much more enmeshed in the story than any sports writer or editor should ever be comfortable with. Clearly, the Times’ sports desk did not apply the same standard of journalism to its tweet that it would to an article, and its punishment was ridicule from an NFL team and from the president of the United States.