Excellent profile in Elle by Rachael Combe of the New York Times’ seemingly superhuman White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, who probably didn’t expect to be courted like Adele and Angelina by glossies prior to this Baba Booey of an election season not being canceled as expected on November 8. Glenn Thrush has become a “star” on SNL and Haberman in Elle. I’d wager they’d both trade their newfound lower-case pop-culture status for some semblance of normalcy.
As I’ve mentioned before no U.S. news organization (at least thus far) has proven to possess great sources in regards to Russiagate, which is what we desperately require now. That’s a fault of the press but also a reality of the shocking media shift we’ve experienced over the last 20 years, as we’ve moved into the Digital Age, which has caused enough belt tightening at what we formerly called newspapers to crack a hip.
Well-staffed overseas bureaus with connections to European Intelligence are not cheap, but they might have come in handy right about now. In fact, they likely would have been more useful during the election before the voting booths opened. Numerous failings and circumstances put Donald Trump in the Oval Office, and while the destabilization of legacy news organizations isn’t the number one reason, it’s on the list.
Still, there are many talented reporters at the Times and Washington Post and elsewhere working tirelessly to uncover important truths. Haberman is among them, and even when I disagree with her, I’m never less than amazed by her efforts. She may have been “outed” by WikiLeaks as being a favorite of John Podesta and Team Hillary, but she’s also lauded as an “honest journalist who happens to be a very good person” and with other kind terms by key figures of the Trump campaign and White House. That (and her work) tells me she’s very polite while being “wickedly competitive.” Whatever the dynamic, Trump has found it impossible to quit her.
Journalists have become part of the story in the Trump administration, enablers and heroes of a nonstop political and constitutional soap opera, and last year Haberman was the most widely read journalist at the Times, according to its analytics. Many of the juiciest Trump pieces have been broken by her: That story about him spending his evenings alone in a bathrobe, watching cable news? Haberman reported and wrote it with her frequent collaborator, Glenn Thrush. The time Trump called the Times to blame the collapse of the Obamacare repeal on the Democrats? It was Haberman he dialed. When he accused former national security adviser Susan Rice of committing crimes, and defended Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly against the sexual harassment claims that would soon end his career at the network? Haberman and Thrush again, with their colleague Matthew Rosenberg. And since President Trump fired FBI director James Comey, Haberman has been on the frontlines of the nonstop news bombshells that have been lobbed, bylining or credited with a reporting assist on around two dozen stories in two weeks. They range from an extraordinarily intimate account of a “sour and dark” Trump berating his staff as “incompetent” to the revelation that Trump called Comey a “nutjob” in an Oval Office meeting with the Russians the day after his dismissal, telling them that Comey’s ouster had relieved the pressure of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign.
Trump frequently complains about Haberman’s coverage. He’s tweeted, at various points, that she’s “third-rate,” “sad,” and “totally in the Hillary circle of bias,” and he almost exclusively refers to the Times as “failing” and “fake news.” But no matter what Haberman writes about Trump, he has never frozen her out. Slate called her Trump’s “snake charmer”; New Yorker editor in chief David Remnick recently likened Trump to her “ardent, twisted suitor.” “I didn’t care for that metaphor,” Haberman says. She finds the framing of her relationship with the president in romantic terms “facile.” No one suggests her male colleagues are “wooing” Trump.
While the president and the reporter couldn’t seem more different—Trump, the flamboyant tycoon and Manhattan establishment aspirant known for his devil- may-care mendacity; and Haberman, a political insider known for her straight-shooting truth telling—the points at which their histories and personalities converge are revealing about both the media and the president himself. Trump wants what she can give him access to—a kind of status he’s always craved in a newspaper that, she says, “holds an enormously large place in his imagination.” Haberman, for her part, has become a front-page fixture and a Fourth Estate folk hero. “This is a symbiotic relationship,” says an administration official. “Part of the reason” Haberman is so read in the Times “is because she is writing about Donald Trump.”•