The New England Patriots visited the White House yesterday. A team spokesman said 34 players attended the ceremony. Tom Brady was not one of them. Several others made it clear they declined the invite because of Donald Trump.
It was a politically charged event.
The New York Times tweeted out photographs of Wednesday’s festivities and those in 2015 when Barack Obama was president.
Now, it doesn’t take a crowd size expert to understand that comparing a posed group picture (2015) with one taken during the president’s speech (2017) can yield misleading results. The one taken with Obama obviously includes more non-players.
The Patriots Well Actuallyed the Times.
This was a fair observation and provided some needed context. One could wonder why the team’s official account was wading into these particular waters but, hey, they had a point.
The Times seemed to agree.
But the Patriots weren’t done.
Note the language here. “The last time the Patriots won two Super Bowls in three years” is very specific. The Patriots, suddenly interested in fact-checking and contextualization, opted not to tweet out a picture from 2015 when 50 players visited the White House. They opted not to tweet out a picture from 2002, when 45 players visited George W. Bush.
The clear intention was to downplay the number of absentees.
It’s difficult to look at the tweets as purely earnest and truth-seeking when owner Robert Kraft is a personal friend and contributor to Trump. How does one explain why the Patriots were so interested in litigating crowd size on Twitter?
The New York Times was not faultless here. It was misleading to use pictures taken at two different stages of the visit and suggest they were comparable, either explicitly or accidentally. To be fair, though, the caption “Patriots’ turnout for President Obama in 2015 vs. Patriots’ turnout for President Trump today” was followed by a link that gave rather thorough context. Sometimes doing the bare minimum, like reading the first paragraph of a story, can prevent the anger brought on by “being misled.”
This year has really been an eye-opener in regards to how deadly serious people are about crowd sizes in our nation’s capital.
UPDATE: Trump has weighed in.