There is a good journalistic case to be made that studying the fashion choices and conscious displays of ostentation reveal deeper current about our country’s leaders. And one need look no further than the recently exited occupant of the White House, whose preference for gilt on everything, including his, uh, throne, laid bare a Queens kid forever trying to prove he didn’t belong to the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.
But then there’s today’s New York Times column on President Joe Biden’s Rolex and Omega watches.
It comes right out of the gate with snide suggestions of Biden’s hypocrisy rather smart sartorial criticism, with a not-so-subtle troll-ish subtitle: “Recent presidents not named Trump have tended to wear Everyman timepieces such as Timex and Shinola.”
The column’s lede clumsily pounds the same point home, if you hand’t picked up on it yet: “President Biden may cast his arrival in the White House as a return to business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but there’s at least one way he’s breaking from prevailing presidential tradition: he wears a Rolex.”
This lazy framing is intellectually bankrupt and chock full of bad faith, amounting to what might best be called the ‘Yet you participate in society” editorial style that cartoonist Matt Bors accurately skewered years ago. In short, one dare not argue in favor of a policy or political ideology without every aspect of one’s personal life supposedly aligning with that goal. Congressman who argues against Big Tech monopoly also uses an iPhone — What ho?! Hypocrisy! Newly-elected president who likes to tout his blue-collar roots also wears a $7,000 watch — Checkmate! Sounds like he’s a big phony.
What’s even worse, the “paper of record’s” choice of highlighting Biden’s timepiece came just two days after it was likewise mocked for a similar, arched-eyebrow, tsk-tsking column on the new president’s Peloton bike, which it, again, ham-handedly tried to claim “clashes with Working Class Joe.” Both of which evoked the infamously cataclysmic day in Washington more than six years ago when then-President Barack Obama ignited a thousand media hot takes by daring to wear a tan suit.
Not surprisingly, online critics who can think back to 2014 — or just two days ago — roasted the Times for its desperate nit-picking.
Really, NY Times, really? We’ve just had the tackiest president in history flaunting fictional wealth and you pick on his watch?
Is That a Rolex on Biden’s Wrist? https://t.co/PijbJ2Uxe9
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) January 22, 2021
first his exercise bike, now his watch. NYT just typing up GOP talking points abt Biden supposedly being hypocrite.
shallow, lame stuff; https://t.co/J7D9zsBSsN
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) January 22, 2021
🎶 For the Times they are a-trollin’ 🎶 https://t.co/Qh3CwL4fCI
— Alex Winter (@Winter) January 22, 2021
Is the Times really going to keep doing this shit?
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) January 22, 2021
When I’m a 78-year-old man who has dedicated my life to public service, lived through the death of a spouse and more than one child, and am elected president in the midst of pandemic to clean up after a sociopathic idiot, I’m wearing a fucking Rolex, too.https://t.co/TCebDcUgld
— Jennifer M. Wood (@j_m_wood) January 22, 2021
Oh my God, Biden has a Peloton and wears a Rolex. pic.twitter.com/3t4ARII3sV
— Saverio Guerra (@saverio825) January 22, 2021
Rolex is the new tan suit https://t.co/yHtyyr4oTI
— Matthew Sheffield (@mattsheffield) January 22, 2021
I generally love @nytimes. I rely on it for deep, fact-based reporting and the lyrical writing of folks like @DanBarryNYT and @AlexVadukul. I’ve written for it myself. But dear Lord, the editors really need to remember why journalism is important. https://t.co/rppsiN0plW
— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) January 22, 2021
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) January 22, 2021
Oh for fuck’s sake.https://t.co/ijQ2WE5ZDk
— Maryn McKenna (@marynmck) January 22, 2021
I had to read to the 4th graph to be sure it wasn’t a subtle parody. What an embarrassment.
“Is That a Rolex on Biden’s Wrist?” https://t.co/8YrY9pxN9G
— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@JoshuaHol) January 22, 2021
lmfao at the NY Times writing a whole-ass gotcha article about Biden having a Rolex after doing all kinds of mental gymnastics for 4 years to avoid being too mean to the transparently corrupt, racist, democracy-destroying former game show host who literally owns a gold toilet
— Scott Wampler™ (@ScottWamplerBMD) January 22, 2021
“Joe Biden wears a Rolex, breaking a huge presidential norm!” — NYT
— Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece) January 22, 2021
The competition for the spot in history books on “Which article was the most absurd in the middle of a mass death event” has gotten much stiffer. Joe Biden’s watch. https://t.co/0EGj5k01Cf
— Kurt “Masks Save Lives” Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) January 22, 2021
Really, @nytimes? Between this and the breathless story about how the President and Dr. Biden co-own a Peloton, I’m starting to think you’re reaching…https://t.co/7OJH6BYiAv pic.twitter.com/pfP284mKcZ
— Erica C. Barnett (@ericacbarnett) January 22, 2021
They must be real bored at the Times. There’s *nothing* else to focus on? MLK day was not even a week ago, and y’all think his dream was no one has a rolex. This MF takes the train, shut up. https://t.co/HgaHGMC9Ue
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) January 22, 2021
And at least one displeased reader had what was a very good follow-up assignment for the Times: have media editor Ben Smith dig into how this atrocious example of journalism got published in the first place.
In his role as media columnist, I would like @benyt to investigate the process that led to the pitch, assignment, and editing of the Biden has a Peleton and Rolex stories recently run by his employer. I’d love to know the internal process that generates this coverage.
— John Warner (@biblioracle) January 22, 2021
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.