I’ve never seen this much furor caused by an op-ed, much less one whose author we don’t know. But that’s partly the point.
The New York Times chose on Wednesday to publish an op-ed from what it called a “senior official” in the White House who makes extremely disparaging claims against President Trump. Speculation regarding the identity of the writer has escalated in the days since.
Some think Vice President Mike Pence is the writer. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had to deny authorship. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called on the “coward” who wrote the piece to “do the right thing and resign.”
Many are focusing on the truth or falsity of the writer’s defamatory descriptions of the Trump White House. Others are working to identify the author. Here’s a question I’ve not seen debated: Why did the Times choose to publish the op-ed in the first place?
The Times editor who made the decision has said, “We felt it was a very strong piece written by someone who had something important to say and who’s speaking from a place of their own sense of personal ethics and conscience. That was our main focus.”
But it’s worth asking whether the liberal New York Times would have made the same decision if the op-ed had been written about Barack Obama when he was in the Oval Office. Or whether Fox News would have published last Wednesday’s op-ed, given the opportunity.
The danger of confirmation bias
According to one psychologist, “confirmation bias” occurs when we have formed a view and then “embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it.” Such bias is obvious every day in the media. We should not be surprised that liberal and conservative commentators are reacting according to their previous opinions of the president.
Our divided media reflects our divided nation. When Judge Kavanaugh’s Senate hearings began this week, 38 percent of…
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