Vanity Fair reporter is anything but in review of Trump Grill

Sometimes it's the small examples that show just how dishonest and agenda-driven media has become.

The issue extends even to restaurant reviews like the one written this week in Vanity Fair on a Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE-owned restaurant in Manhattan titled, "TRUMP GRILL COULD BE THE WORST RESTAURANT IN AMERICA; And it reveals everything you need to know about our next president."

OK, so who's the food writer of this review? 

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Does said writer have any agenda or bias that can be found in her archive and/or Twitter feed?

 

The answer to the latter question is not only yes, but an argument can be made that author Tina Nguyen is one of the most biased, anti-Trump members of the media in America, and that's really saying something.

Some of Nguyen’s stories from the past month have included:

Who Will Lie to the Press For Trump Next?

Did Donald Trump Win the Election Because of a Typo?

This Group of Rogue Electors Have a Plan to Stop Trump

Bored with Unity, Donald Trump Returns to the Campaign Trail

Mitt Romney Eats Crow at Three-Star Dinner with Donald Trump

Why are These Liberal Senators Eager to Work with Trump?

Is Donald Trump Turning the U.S. into a Banana Republic?

You get the idea. Nguyen loathes the president-elect. And that's fine. She's not exactly alone in the Manhattan media landscape. 

Disclosure: Nguyen and I once worked at the same publication, Mediaite, from 2013-2015. I never met her and barely engaged in any correspondence.  

I reached out to Tina on Thursday to ask if she had done any other restaurant reviews for Vanity Fair since joining last year in 2015. She had not responded as of Friday morning.

So if you're an editor at Vanity Fair knowing where she stands politically, why exactly would you send your most advocacy-driven, anti-Trump political columnist to do a restaurant review of a Trump establishment? 

The answer, of course, is to decimate the restaurant with a scathing review in an effort to attract attention, clicks, and perhaps even to bait Trump into a response (which he predictably did in another display of a lack of discipline).

Nguyen didn't disappoint. Not only did she write that the food horrible, she also attacked the decor by painting Trump as a wannabe rich guy before she had even begun to review the food.

"As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of ‘Jingle Bells’ jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas.

“Donald Trump is ‘a poor person’s idea of a rich person,’ Fran Lebowitz recently observed at The Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. ‘They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that.’ Nowhere, perhaps, does this reflection appear more accurate than at Trump Grill (which is occasionally spelled Grille on various pieces of signage). On one level, the Grill (or Grille), suggests the heights of plutocratic splendor—a steakhouse built into the basement of one’s own skyscraper."

Gee, I wonder what else she's going to say about the food and service next.

In a related story, the Trump organization now ranks in the Top-50 of private businesses in the U.S., according to a report this week by PrivCo, a research firm that estimates the size of privately held firms.

Trump's company employs 22,450 people and generated $9.5 billion in revenue last year, according to the report.

Context: The Trump Organization is bigger than other private entities such as Major League Baseball, McKinsey & Co. and Bloomberg.

But if Fran Lebowitz says Trump is “a poor person’s idea of a rich person,” let's run with that instead of doing basic research instead.

I know what you're going to ask: How do I know the restaurant isn't the worst America has to offer? Maybe it IS horrible, right?

To get a more objective perspective from those with no skin in the game, I turned to the trusty and respected TripAdvisor.com. TripAdvisor is the world's largest travel site, according to Comscore, reaching 390 million average monthly unique visitors.

From a personal perspective, TripAdvisor is a must-visit for anyone on vacation or simply looking for a restaurant nearby in the neighborhood. The reviews of restaurants or hotels come — often in vivid detail — from regular patrons. And my experience from the past 10 years has been almost perfect in terms of reliable reviews when choosing the higher-ranked venues on the site.

In the case of Trump Grill, 244 reviews have been provided on TripAdvisor dating back to well before Trump became a polarizing candidate in announcing his run for president in June of 2015.

Of those reviews, 187 of 244 deem the restaurant "excellent" or "very good." Thirty-three rank it “average” and just 24 of the 244 — less than 10 percent — call it "terrible" or “poor.”

Add it all up, and Trump Grill averages out to four stars out of a possible five.

On Zagat, another respected option when searching for a restaurant, Trump Grill receives a higher-than-average rating of three stars out of five. 

So who do you believe?

A writer with a history of hating on Trump who claims the restaurant could be the worst in America? 

Or TripAdvisor and Zagat, who have no agenda against any owner, even those who happen to be president-elect. 

No matter. Not one reporter decided to bother to look to see who the reviewer of this restaurant was or to check into other reviews around Trump Grill. Instead, the Vanity Fair review gets gleefully re-reported as fact because of who the target is. 

Vanity Fair describes Nguyen as “a reporter for The Hive, covering politics and the media.” A look at her career history shows she blogged some restaurant reviews many years ago before her Mediaite days, but none for Vanity Fair until now. 

The magazine now brands itself as "The magazine Trump doesn't want you to read." 

Yup, it's absolute business genius to alienate half your potential readership with branding like that.

Short-term gains will be trumped by long-term harm once the reputation of the publication starts preceding itself.

Sometimes media bias is something that takes a little research to uncover. 

In the case of Vanity Fair, when sending a compromised political and media reporter to do a restaurant review, the verdict is clear:

This was a pre-determined hit piece in an effort to attract attention.

And it worked partially because Trump gave the story big league attention through another ill-advised tweet, though that still doesn't excuse the publication for engaging in dishonest activity.

But as long as the clicks keep coming, that's all that matters in today's media world, where blatant partisanship is rewarded as long as the business end is satisfied.

Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.