Wednesday 5 June 2019

Slanting the story

Emily, looking even more orange than the President

(Following on from a comment from MB on the open thread...)

A throwaway remark in answer to a question got massively blown out of proportion yesterday.

On re-watching what was said at the Trump/May press conference and then comparing it to the Times journalist's subsequent write-up of it (which gives it a peculiar, hyperbolic spin), I can't help thinking that the Times report had a story in mind already and then went away and wrote it.

Here's what was said at the press conference: 

Theresa May: Francis?
Francis Elliott: Mr President, Francis Elliott from The Times. Do you agree with your ambassador that the entire economy needs to be on the table in a future trade talk, trade deal, including the NHS? And Prime Minister, are you tempted to take the President up on his word and stick around for a bit till the trade deal is done?
President Trump: I think we going to have a great trade deal, yes. I think we going to have a great and very comprehensive trade deal...
Francis Elliott: (interrupting, away from the mic, hard to hear) But what about the NHS?  But what about the NHS? Should that be on the table?
President Trump (to Mrs May): I can't hear him.
Mrs May (to President Trump): It's our National Health Service. So should the National Health Service be on the table?
President Trump: Look, I think everything with a trade deal is on the table. When you're dealing on trade everything is on the table,  so NHS or anything else, and a lot more than that. But everything will be on the table, absolutely, ok.
Mrs May: But the point about making trade deals is, of course, that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future.

A comment below the Times piece sums it up well:

In negotiation the starting point is usually that everything is on the table. Things can very soon be taken off. Theresa May, in a rare moment of spontaneity, to me made it clear in her response to Potus that the NHS was not a serious consideration in any trade talks. Watch the Press Conference - it's pretty clear.

All this nonsense about the NHS is nothing to do with politics or trade talks - it the usual embarrassing anti-Trump hysteria; the nit-picking that the media make such a meal of in order to try to discredit Trump and everything about him.

Needless to say, Emily Maitlis on Newsnight followed the media pack and gave us this characteristically loaded description of the exchange:

Perhaps the moment of greatest discomfort for hardline Brexiteers came when the US president restated that everything - including the NHS - would be up for grabs in any future US trade deal. A remark quickly slapped down by his host, Theresa May. 

(Note, incidentally, the trademark "hardline" in "hardline Brexiteers" there). 

And Radio 4's news bulletin on The World Tonight began like this:

Donald Trump has said the United States is committed to a "phenomenal" trade deal with the UK after Brexit but the US President insisted that everything should be on the table during negotiations, including the NHS.

That makes it sound as if Donald Trump was insisting, above all, that the NHS should be on the table - which he wasn't. That's BBC spin.

Now, is this just bad reporting or is it biased reporting as well? Or both?


  1. What does "the NHS" mean in this context? We don't have a system of general private insurance in the UK, so there's no way private insurers could "bid" for the NHS.

    But equally, one presumes that American companies already do already provide a lot of drugs, equipment and services to the NHS. So it's probably a case of removing tarrifs...

    I make a distinction between "on the table" and "in the deal". Maitlis in typical Fake News fashion by using the phrase "up for grabs" in relation to the NHS is intentionally seeking to deceive the audience into thinking the President is insisting that the NHS is going to be sold off, privatised, as a commercial enterprise. That is beyond stupid. No one thinks that is going to happen. Only a lunatic would think it's possible. But the BBC are knowingly promoting lunacy as part of their campaign against Brexit. It's dangerous, deceitful nonsense.

  2. Looking as orange maybe, and also channeling Trumpian haute couture.

  3. It's typical BBC in that it is always seeking to dramatise and it is always looking for a political angle. This is ingrained and so habitual that phrases like 'up for grabs' and 'slapped down' come easily and naturally. They fall into the old habit and proceed along familiar tracks.
    This kind of reporting is lazy and pretentious. Although I called it 'reporting', it's both less and more than straightforward factual reporting. This is why we could do with much less BBC altogether. Less of it would mean less opportunity for their knowing spin and the creative mischief-making which is part and parcel of the dramatizing and political angling habit.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.