NYT’s David Leonhardt Invents Facts to discredit Capitol Protest

  • Leonhardt/NYT blames social media platform Parler on the basis of nothing
  • Leonhardt/NYT continues blaming the Trump protesters for the death of Officer Brian Sicknick even though no evidence supports that conclusion
  • Leonhardt/NYT continues their xenophobic jihad against Russia by blaming it for the protest

OUR RATING: 2 = Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.

Indicted Outlet: David Leonhardt | The New York Times | Link | Archive

Major Violations:

  • Misrepresentations
  • No Evidence to Support
  • Superficial Investigation

Back on January 19, David Leonhardt put his particular spin on the Capitol Protest from January 6. His analysis was opinion posing as fact, extremely biased and prejudiced and, frankly, overwrought for what some used to call the ‘paper of record’ for the country.

It’s so bad, so replete with bias, prejudice, outrageous language choice, and even pseudo-sexualization of five year old boys, that his article should be considered journalistic malpractice. Leonhardt has actually won the Pulitzer for ‘commentary’ which is further proof, of course, that there is no accounting for taste.


The second paragraph of the article pushes the narrative that the now-deplatformed social media company Parler is to blame for the content posted by their users. But this left-wing fantasy has almost no basis in reality. It’s supported by quotes from very questionable ‘experts’. 

Leonhardt: The people who participated in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6 posted thousands of videos of it to Parler, a social network. Journalists and other witnesses have released dozens of their own videos, too.

First of all, by almost all accounts, the vast majority of the crowd was gathered at the Capitol to hear a planned speech by Trump that never materialized. They did not arrive to ‘attack’ and so that language is suggesting premeditation among the entire crowd where there isn’t one in evidence. 

There is evidence that bad faith actors, people tied to left-wing media and those tied to Antifa, were present and actively encouraging violence. That part of the story never gets a mention, except perhaps to summarily dismiss it as a ‘conspiracy theory.’

But on the question of Parler’s culpability for the protest, even left-wing outlets like Salon.com admit that Facebook was likely a larger place where the ‘planning’ occurred. Salon mentions this as a way to argue for increased censorship and deplatforming across all platforms. If you look at the way the language is worded, however, this claim is a substantial misrepresentation and falls apart without some outside expert. The factual basis of this is the “it seems like to me” from what Leonhardt writes.

There is also currently no list of who was at the Capitol protest. 300+ have been charged in any fashion so far.[3]  At least tens of thousands were present for the rally and protest on the national mall [4], possibly many more. At least several thousand surrounded the Capitol. Federal authorities are still seeking information on many who were present and inside the building. Those who were outside the building are potentially people who committed no crime other than being present at a rally and protest. There is no list of Parler users to compare the non-existent list of protesters or those inside the Capitol against. So if you don’t know who was in the largest group, and don’t know who was in any smaller group, and you don’t know who uses Parler and who uses other social media platforms, how could you make a blanket statement that it was all done over Parler? Leonhardt is simply lying.

So this claim by Leonhardt is mere projection, amplification of a left-wing media meme that suits the narrative of shutting down alternative social media Parler using monopolistic tactics with the flimsiest of pretexts: the argument that it fosters violence because it permits free speech, even though there is actual evidence the people who planned to go inside the Capitol used Facebook instead.

The third paragraph by Leonhardt uses more loaded language, you can see that it calls the group a ‘mob’ and says they were ‘incited’ by Trump, even though there’s no evidence of that, and assigns a purpose to the so-called ‘mob.’ Those words avoid the fact that the group was gathered to listen to a speech by Trump at the Capitol that was scheduled for 1:00PM. That’s important missing context from his story. Existing video shows elderly and mothers with children walking around, not exactly consistent with the ‘mobs’ that are ‘incited’ to violently depose the government. In fact, the existing video makes it seem as though people were gathered to hear a speech, a final rally by the President to protest the claims of systemic voter fraud. 

Leonhardt: A mob, incited by the president of the United States, stormed the halls of Congress in an effort to prevent it from certifying the president’s electoral defeat. 

Leonhardt of course gives no context to Trump’s documented allegations of voter fraud, completely denying his readers the chance to consider those vital facts to the story.

Leonhardt: During the attack, the mob killed a police officer and went looking for members of Congress.

It’s interesting that Leonhardt’s original link to “the mob killed a police officer” originally went unlinked [5], and was no doubt referencing the death of Officer Brian Sicknick. Now, the words ‘police officer’ are linked to a story about Capitol Police having to take more COVID tests because they were potentially exposed to viral loads from Trump protesters. [6]

The media coverage of the death of Brian Sicknick should be considered another major moment of media malpractice. It should cause outlets like the New York Times, which took a month to correct their inaccurate, erroneous lies [7], to hesitate before making such claims, but like Leonhardt, they clearly can’t help themselves. They rely on bad sources, to come to premature conclusions, assuming bad faith about political opponents, so they can be partisan and not objective. They engaged a superficial investigation and came to a conclusion they had no evidence to support other than gossip.

The media mythmaking about Officer Sicknick continued about the ‘fire extinguisher’ even though no video supported the claim. When that narrative fell apart, they quickly moved to the current thesis that ‘bear spray’ or mace was to blame. At no point did facts actually animate the media coverage of Sicknick’s death, and the lack of facts did not stop the New York Times from journalistic malpractice, and did not stop Leonhardt from repeating and amplifying the lie here. Even though they quietly corrected the Sicknick claims on their original article, the false claim still exists here. 

Leonhardt: The mob came very close to lawmakers. At several points, rioters were within feet of members of Congress, separated by only a small group of police officers, a multimedia article in The Washington Post shows. Some rioters passed within 100 feet of Vice President Mike Pence, who was hiding with his family in an office near the Senate chamber.

The reporter from the primary newspaper in America then states his opinion as fact, letting us know that protesters inside the Capitol got ‘very close’ to lawmakers. There are 435 Members of Congress, 100 Senators and 1 Vice President, so chances are a protesting group of 15,000+ surrounding the building were all relatively ‘close’ to the smaller group of lawmakers. And how close is too close for the public to get to lawmakers? Does it matter if they are separated with impenetrable walls, doors, and surrounded by security? Leonhardt gives us nothing to gauge his opinion of ‘too close’ for this dirty rabble he so clearly looks down upon. It presents the situation as though it were a football field and the protest team almost got the government team into the end zone, which is all a way of making it seem as though physical harm to politicians were the only thing the entire mass of protesters were interested in, when that’s speculative and not in evidence.

And there were people who verbalized a desire to ‘hang Pence’ but it is not clear that anyone took that seriously or if it were mere bluster. There’s not enough evidence to say that the crowd was there for a bloodletting of politicians, instead it seems as though there was an angry crowd who were frustrated and repeatedly let-down by their leaders, who saw an opportunity and took it. Comments and complaints made on social media by random third-parties, people who aren’t proven to have attended the rally, are then used to suggest a motive to the people present. 

But it seems clear that Leonhardt, and to be fair the rest of the corporate media, have gone into overdrive trying to delegitimize the complaints of the Trump crowd after having ridiculed and ignored their complaints for months. The audacity of this position is really stunning, even for an industry as arrogant as journalism. They can allow not one scintilla of legitimacy to the complaints of the crowd, they relegate it all to superstition. 

Yet the most fanciful notion is that the crowd sought to kill politicians, yet that claim is presented as self-evident. A useful comparison would be to look at the level of organization, discipline, and planning used by violent Antifa protesters who are able to mask their faces from cameras, who can easily put out tear gas, who have people labelled ‘press’ and ‘legal’ milling about, and who are careful to control what gets documented and what does not, and who regularly attack and threaten reporters who do not toe their line. If the Capitol protesters were using the same tactics, it would seem clear they were intent on utilizing political violence and were premeditated about it. Instead, some people broke windows, the doors were open and curious grandmas walked in and out. A few people pooped.

Leonhardt: “The mob felt empowered by Republican leaders. As rioters pushed their way down a hallway, one shouted at a police officer, ‘We are listening to your boss: Trump.’”

Leonhardt repeatedly engages in deliberate misrepresentation in order to prove his thesis. He bolds his 13th paragraph’s first sentence, “The mob felt empowered by Republican leaders” in a way that is commanding. His evidence for this is idle chatter between the thousands of people inside the Capitol. The quote he uses in the next sentence, a statement yelled by a protester to a police officer, is “We are listening to your boss: Trump.” 

Now, what does this statement mean? Perhaps it shows that they felt emboldened, but did Trump actually incite this group of people? There is evidence that there were BLM people present. Even an NPR reporter was present. Were these people commanding like a drone army by Trump to find Mike Pence and hang him? Or was this a large and diverse crowd with many different interests: many of them largely peaceful as it sought to hear Trump speak at the Capitol and were caught up by events? Leonhardt never bothers to provide the actual quote that Trump uttered that commanded his employees to go and hang Mike Pence. 

To be fair to Leonhardt this is a large event, with many interests, and many moving parts. But what he is engaged in is cherry picking examples to make broad generalizations about the whole. Look at the way he treats this as the Parler Putsch, saying that it was all organized on a social media platform that happens to be conveniently down so no one can check his outrageous claims. 

The proper way for a journalist to engage this topic would be to take the list of those indicted and then compare their social media posts. It would suggest motive if they showed us that a specific person said a specific thing at a specific time prior to the event at the Capitol. Instead, we get supposition and speculation that conveniently fits Leonhardt’s obvious partisan agenda: people said something extreme and those people look like the people who were protesting so I’m going to paint with the broadest brush possible to make them all the same villain, and give all the people present the most extreme motive possible: political assassination.

Nothing in evidence suggests this or backs up these claims, and Leonhardt is careful not to be plain and direct with his words, he dishonestly encourages his readers to reach that conclusion without putting himself at risk of correction.

Leonhardt: Rioters abused the police. One man, carrying an American flag, profanely yelled at a line of Washington police officers that his 5-year-old son was more of a man than they were.

Leonhardt then goes to #BacktheBlue by expressing sadness in his 7th paragraph that grown policemen had their masculinity threatened by an agitated protester. This is the relevant sentence, “One man, carrying an American flag, profanely yelled at a line of Washington police officers that his 5-year-old son was more of a man than they were.”

There are multiple problems with this mere sentence: first off, there’s no reason to note that this man, among hundreds of others, was carrying an American flag except to make a snarky prejudiced aside about the elite-disfavored nationalism of Trump-supporters. There’s also zero relation to the referenced act: what does a flag have to do with masculinity? And the underlying act is irrelevant as presented. A man who sasses cops is worth writing about? 

It probably goes to other prejudices in David Leonhardt’s life that he, like many liberal men in the media, obsesses over masculinity to the point of exhaustion. The degree to which leftist authors focus on and hype this should make the average reader question whether its obsession reveals a pseudo-sexual disorder in Leonhardt rather than whether this was objectively all the news that was fit to print from the incident. He focuses on a non-incident to gather together nationalism with the sexual virility of young boys, their fathers, and tough uniformed police officers. 

This quote is so odd and so disproportionately out of place in this story, that it shows us more about the mindset and private proclivities of the kind of writers hired by the Times than it does the facts of the event.

Leonhardt: “The F.B.I. is also investigating whether a Pennsylvania woman stole computer equipment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and intended to sell it to Russian agents.”

Leonhardt also can’t help him from parroting the oft-disproven but never-dead Russian collusion lie: “The F.B.I. is investigating whether a Pennsylvania woman stole computer equipment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and intended to sell it to Russian agents.” The Russian collusion hoax is one of the nation’s most documented political frauds, but comments like this only serve to reignite it in the minds of his readers.[8]

He also utilizes an old trope that should be officially retired by serious writers: “The F.B.I. is investigating…” something. The only way to get this admission is to know someone at the Department, and their ability to investigate is unrestricted. The F.B.I. is daily investigating the planet, the country, prominent things in the news. Sometimes weak journalists will say that there is an “official” investigation that has been “opened” but will never report when it is “closed,” but the trick is the same: make it look like an indictment is pending, and that indictment is proof of guilt since so many people take pleas. 

When the media is uncritical and lacks skepticism about the investigatory power and abuse of that power by federal authorities, it creates a closed circuit where individuals can be persecuted and wrongful imprisonments result. 

Overall Leonhardt appropriates and abuses language in order to suit his agenda. And this is where newsmen who appropriate the language and symbols of partisan speechwriters merge and mold the popular consensus into something useful for their personal partisan causes. By framing the incident as a ‘riot’ and an ‘attack’ Leonhardt is in perfect rhythm with Joe Biden’s claim that this was an attack on the ‘temple of Democracy.’ 

Interestingly none of this kind of rhetorical excess or linguistic pandering seems present for other political rallies or protests that end up violent, which happen to be left-wing in orientation.

We reached out to Leonhardt and have not heard back. If he responds, we will update this article with his response. 

Ultimately Leonhardt the Pulitzer winner is providing his readers with Commentary using such loaded language, rhetorical tricks and dishonest framing and out-of-context facts and quotes, that the article should be considered journalistic malpractice.

Our Rating: 2 = Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.



1 ] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/briefing/trump-biden-brazil-1776-report.html

2 ] https://www.salon.com/2021/01/16/despite-parler-backlash-facebook-played-huge-role-in-fueling-capitol-riot-watchdogs-say/

3 ] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/capitol-riot-arrests-2021-02-27/

4 ] https://heavy.com/news/maga-march-trump-dc-rally-crowd-photos/

5 ] https://web.archive.org/web/20210119201133/https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/briefing/trump-biden-brazil-1776-report.html

6 ] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/us/politics/capitol-police-test-positive-covid.html

7 ] https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/23/heres-the-most-egregious-and-misleading-coverage-of-officer-sicknicks-death/

8 ] https://nypost.com/2020/09/29/cia-told-obama-of-claim-clinton-conjured-trump-russia-scandal-spy-chief/

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