Why Is the New York Times So Weird About Bernie's Accent?

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There are many problems with the New York Times’ approach to politics coverage (though there aren’t nearly as many problems as there are with the opinion section). It tends to cast centrist ideas as “pragmatic,” as if there’s no ideology behind centrism. It frets about civility, under the guise of hard news. It covered Alan Dershowitz not being invited to parties like four different times. Above all else, it reflects a liberal elite consensus about politics, what’s possible, and who should be taken Seriously.

One prominent politician who is squarely outside what the Times would consider Serious, or at least was for the vast majority of his career, is Bernie Sanders. It does not quite know what to do with him. It feels like the Times would rather Bernie simply go away and let sensible politicians, like Andrew Cuomo, get on with it.

One of the ways that this expresses itself is very peculiar. There have now been at least five separate instances of the Times, including four straight-news articles by two different writers and one opinion piece, writing out the way Sanders says certain words in his Brooklyn accent, as if a Brooklyn accent is most peculiar to the paper for New York City. (All emphasis ours.)


On April 10:

The rollout — complete with Sanders-esque finger jabs and talk of “doctahs” and “dollahs” — was live-streamed from a packed room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

On April 9, an article about Sanders’ tax returns has been updated to read:

Mr. Sanders — whose trademark on the campaign trail is his attacks on the “millionaires” and the “billionaires” — had consistently ranked among the least wealthy members of the Senate.


But it previously read:


There’s no note indicating the change.

On February 19, when Sanders announced his campaign:


This article, too, has been updated with no note.

On November 23:

Some close to him recognize that the lectern-pounding liberalism that Mr. Sanders embraced in 2016 — punctuated with frequent denunciations of the “millionaihs and billionaihs” — could benefit from a new element or two.


And today, Bret Stephens offered his own spelling:

When Sanders inveighs against billyinaehs (millyinaehs being presumably no longer as odious to him today as they were just a few years ago) he is engaged in a form of stereotyping that is no less bigoted, or dangerous, for being aimed at so few.


We can assume that Bret Stephens is not edited by anyone—I think I would rather believe that, at least—and he’s certainly not a straight news reporter. But that’s four examples of Times news reporters deciding that a New York accent is strange and worthy of note, if not outright derision, despite it being the local paper for all the people with that accent.

Whatever you think of Bernie Sanders, isn’t this a bit...weird? I don’t see them doing this for any of the other candidates, and the fact that they’ve updated two of these pieces to date seems to indicate that someone else at the Times believes it’s weird, too. We’ve reached out to the Times’ politics editor Patrick Healy for an answer.


I wonder if perhaps the intent of this isn’t just to lightly rib a fellow New Yorker for sounding like a New Yorker, but to cast his “rants” against millionaires and billionaires as strange, or otherwise generally silly, and therefore not worth listening to. After all, those millionaires and billionaires almost certainly read the Times.

Perhaps the message is: Don’t worry, guys. It’s just some fuckin’ weird old “Brooklyn” guy talking about millionaires—you can ignore him, because he doesn’t sound like Frasier Crane.