Whoops: New York Times Beclowns Itself With Inaccurate Hit-Piece On ND Oil Boom


Yesterday I wrote about that New York Times hit piece on the Bakken oil boom which was highly critical of the state’s handling of oil development under Republican leaders like Governor Jack Dalrymple. In the post I noted that several sources told me that the Times reporters were awfully chummy with former Democrat Lt. Governor candidate Ellen Chaffee while in the state (Chafee ran against Dalrymple on the gubernatorial ticket with Ryan Taylor in 2012).

Times spokeswoman ultimately confirmed the collaboration between reporters and Chaffee by way of clarifying that the erstwhile statewide candidate would be featured in the second part of the story. And indeed she was. Part two of the Times’ story has been published, and it’s a rehashing of every bogus talking point and conspiracy theory North Dakota leftists have contrived over the last couple of years.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon’s ill-advised attempt to prosecute oil companies over a few dead ducks makes an appearance, with no mention of the fact that Purdon has never once tried to prosecute the state’s wind energy industry for the many more migratory birds its turbines slice and dice every year.

The failed attempt to indict Governor Jack Dalrymple through petition for supposedly taking bribes (as in perfectly legal and 100 percent disclosed campaign contributions) from the oil industry, with no mention of the fact that in addition to being tossed out of court twice the petitions were only attempted in one extremely rural county where the threshold for convening a grand jury through petition was just a few hundred signatures. The backers of the petitions have not, to my knowledged, even tried that stunt in a more populous county where the signature threshold would require more than a few dozen cranks signing a piece of paper.

The Times even references supposed “tea party” leader Paul Sorum in a positive fashion, despite Sorum last making headlines with a lawsuit aiming to declare himself governor after getting less than 2 percent of the vote in 2012 (he claimed both Dalrymple and Taylor were disqualified because they didn’t fill out a form correctly).

But perhaps the worst sin against level-headed and accurate journalism committed by the Times in this instance is the accusation against the state’s Republican majority of punishing former lawmaker and two-time statewide candidate Ryan Taylor for supposedly dissenting against the oil boom.

The Times claims that Taylor was punished by Republicans for running for Governor against Dalrymple in 2012 by having his legislative district eliminated:

Until recently, those few who dared to challenge the brisk pace of oil development, the perceived laxity of government oversight or the despoliation of farmland were treated as killjoys. They were ignored, ridiculed, threatened, and paid settlements in exchange for silence. The Democratic state senator who challenged Mr. Dalrymple — the Republican leader of a supermajority Republican state — for governor in 2012 was simply redistricted out of the legislature.

This claim is repeated later in the story:

On Election Day, Mr. Taylor lost by nearly 30 points, and subsequently, the state legislature eliminated two rural districts, one of them his. “That was a dirty deal,” he said.

This is inaccurate, as anyone who actually follows state politics would know. And, heck, even a couple of quick Google searches would have made the truth obvious.

The redistricting plan in question put Taylor in the same district as another Democrat Senator. It wasn’t approved after his 2012 campaign loss. It was actually approved more than a month before he even announced his 2012 campaign, during a special session of the Legislature in November of 2011. Taylor didn’t even announce his campaign until December of 2011.

It’s a little hard to fathom how Republicans punished Taylor for running for governor with a redistricting plan that was approved a month before he announced his candidacy, and was conceived of even months before that. But the Times states that Taylor’s district was eliminated subsequent to his loss.

Clearly, that’s inaccurate. Redistricting was approved about a year before election day.

Maybe the Times should fact check the talking points they’re given by Democrats to publish. By the way, the Times notes that two rural legislative districts were eliminated. The other district eliminated actually ended up pitting two Republican Senators against one another – Joe Miller and Curtis Olafson in District 10 (Miller ultimately beat Olafson in a primary campaign). But I guess that fact didn’t fit the Times’ narrative.

Also not mentioned in the story – which is a shame, because it is pertinent – is the fact that Taylor ran for statewide office again in 2014, as the Democrats’ Agriculture Commission candidate which also would have given him a seat on the Industrial Commission. Taylor lost. Again. This time by more than 14 percentage points. Maybe because North Dakotans aren’t buying what he and Democrats (and apparently the New York Times) are selling about energy regulation.

Regardless, the Times should be ashamed of itself. This story is an act of journalistic malpractice. A cavalcade of left-wing talking points about North Dakota’s oil development, gobbled up and regurgitated for a national audience with little thought given to fact or context.

It would be funny if this story weren’t going to end up misleading tens of thousands of people.

UPDATE: Well that was quick. The Times has appended this small correction in tiny fine print at the end of their article.



The correction comes after I emailed Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha about the issue last night, and it’s a pathetic correction still suggesting that Taylor’s legislative district was taken away from him out of retribution. It wasn’t. And, as I noted before, the Times still doesn’t mention that the other district dissolved at the same time as Taylor’s had a Republican in it.