If there’s anything The New York Times seems to enjoy, it’s coming up with a focused attack on a Democratic candidate and then running that attack over and over and over again. Maybe their writers enjoy the simplicity of copy-pasting their remarks. Maybe there’s pleasure in patchwriting existing articles into something “new.” Whatever it is, once the Times has latched on to their Great White “But Her Emails,” they are inclined to never let it go.

For Joe Biden, the line of attack doesn’t even require misunderstanding how email servers work, a pretense that some kind of rule has been broken, or James Comey coming in with a holier-than-thou hot take. Because Biden is old. Case closed. Break out the Xerox machine and just keep slapping that copy button.

Over the weekend, The New York Times filled every slot on its editorial page with a piece attacking Biden’s age and memory. That didn’t just include the Times’ conservative columnists calling for the president to step down, but the paper’s editorial board jumping in to tell you that Americans think Biden is too old. As for 77-year-old Donald Trump? Now there’s someone who “does not appear to be suffering the effects of time in such visible ways.”

How many times can a single article tell you that Biden is old, but Trump is in his prime? Well, there’s the headline:

Why the Age Issue Is Hurting Biden So Much More Than Trump

And the subhead:

Both Donald J. Trump and President Biden are over 75. But voters are much less likely to worry that Mr. Trump is too old to serve.

And then there’s this paragraph about Trump, which has to be read in its entirety to appreciate how embarrassing it would be to Kim Jong Un’s publicist.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, does not appear to be suffering the effects of time in such visible ways. Mr. Trump often dyes his hair and appears unnaturally tan. He is heavyset and tall, and he uses his physicality to project strength in front of crowds. When he takes the stage at rallies, he basks in adulation for several minutes, dancing to an opening song, and then holds forth in speeches replete with macho rhetoric and bombast that typically last well over an hour, a display of stamina.

Strength. Physicality. Stamina. Those are the words attached to Trump.

In the previous paragraph, the same article had different words for Biden: Tentative. Frail. Stiff.

In the middle of this article is a link to a New York Times/Siena College poll that reportedly showed 70% of Americans believing Biden to be too old for his office, while fewer than 50% said the same of Trump.

Gee. Where did they get an idea like that?

On Monday, a story on Biden’s age and memory is still at the top of The New York Times’ editorial page. Even if the contents of that story are far less caustic than the articles that ran over the weekend, it’s still written from a tedious middle-of-the-road perspective that is not far off special counsel Robert Hur describing Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” It also serves to keep “Biden,” “Age,” and “Memory” right at the top of the headlines.

What’s especially convenient about this storyline for the Times is that they’ve already been doing it for decades. Here are a few past headlines:

The first two items on this list come from the last couple of years. The middle pair are from 2019, when Biden was only starting to gear up for his campaign to win the White House. The last item on that list is from 2008, when Biden had just been selected as Barack Obama’s running mate.

Joe Biden has always been the gaffe guy. If The New York Times assigns someone to cover a Biden speech, they know what’s expected: Forget everything else—just bring back the moment when Biden mixed up a name or mispronounced a city. Just as the Grey Lady had its fixed set of things to say about Hillary Clinton, which it trotted out on any occasion, for Biden it’s always there to catch even the slightest slip. “Gaffe-prone” Biden has been their schtick for decades, which conveniently ignores Biden’s well-documented (and largely successful) effort to overcome a severe stutter. Now the Times is delighted to tie its grammar police to the Hur report and claim that this is all about age. Copy-paste. Copy-paste. Copy-paste.

Occasionally the Times will mount a small, milquetoast defense, like the piece titled, “I’m a Neuroscientist. We’re Thinking About Biden’s Memory and Age in the Wrong Way” at the top of the op-ed page at this moment, which powerfully argues that Biden isn’t “Forgetting” as Hur suggests, he’s merely “forgetting.” Because that distinction is certainly something that will be easily conveyed in a 30-second spot.  

Compare that bland language to the explicitly negative editorial columns over the weekend that called Biden “decrepit” and insisted he should step aside. Or this piece that kicks off by comparing Biden to an aging parent with dementia. “One of the most difficult conversations you can have in life is with a parent or peer who is becoming too old and infirm to work,” it declares. Apparently, it’s not so difficult, because the Times is having this conversation with its readers every day.

The New York Times, along with other media outlets, has created an opinion ouroboros. The publication provides stories that emphasize how Biden is old, slipping, and gaffe-prone. Then they circulate the news that people, shockingly, believe them. Then they use those poll results as an excuse to do it all again.

When it comes to Trump … don’t worry about it. He dyes his hair and wears makeup and talks for a long time. According to the Times, that means you shouldn’t be concerned about his age. In fact, they have a poll that shows you’re not concerned. And now, here’s an article about how you’re not worried about Trump’s age. Watch him dance. 


Republicans demanded border security, worked on a compromise deal with Democrats, and now want to blow the whole thing up. Biden is promising to remind Americans every day that the Republican Party is at fault for the lack of solutions to the problems they claim are most important.

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Mark Sumner

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