New York Times Shows Differences in Coverage of Would-Be Political Assassins

New York Times building / Getty Images

New York Times building / Getty Images


The New York Times' initial coverage of would-be political assassins and fringe figures James T. Hodgkinson in 2017 and Cesar Altieri Sayoc this week show a newfound focus for the paper of record on the political affinities of perpetrators in such crimes.

Hodgkinson died last June in a firefight with police after shooting up a congressional Republican baseball practice. A fervent supporter of progressive icon Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and opponent of President Donald Trump, he critically wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.), and four others were injured in the attack.

Sayoc, a right-winger who appeared to be living out of a van covered in pro-Trump paraphernalia, was arrested Friday for mailing at least 14 packages containing explosive devices to an array of Democratic politicians and liberal figures, all of them Trump critics.

In the first paragraph of the Times coverage of Sayoc, it noted he was an "outspoken supporter of President Trump," while the first paragraph of the initial story on Hodgkinson said he was "said to be distraught over President Trump’s election." It did not mention his support of Sanders until the 25th paragraph.

The word "motive" did not appear once in the Times article on Sayoc but heavily implied it was due to his fervent defense of Trump,  while the FBI would not comment on the motive of Hodgkinson in the June 14, 2017, piece. A follow-up piece a week later reported federal authorities "had not settled on a motive" for the attack.

Hodgkinson and Sayoc both were living out of their vans at the time of their respective crimes and were both active on political social media in their respective wings. At one point, Hodgkinson posted a petition to impeach the president and said it was time to "destroy" Trump. They were both older as well; Hodgkinson was 66 when he died, and Sayoc is 56.

Sayoc, a registered Republican, has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1991 that includes felony charges of theft, drugs and fraud. He also had been arrested for making a previous bombing threat. A separate Times article headlined "Living in a Van Plastered With Hate, Bombing Suspect Was Filled With Right-Wing Rage" details his history of disturbing and criminal behavior.

Hodgkinson had taken to living in a van as his marriage fell apart and law enforcement described him as an emotionally desperate person with anger management problems.

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