N.Y. Times publisher implores Trump to stop calling journalists 'enemy of the people'

Reporter
Yahoo News

President Trump invited the New York Times’ top brass to the White House for an off-the-record conversation earlier this month. The ensuing meeting stayed confidential until Sunday morning — when Trump tweeted about it.

Trump claimed to have a “very good and interesting meeting” with A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times. Trump said he opined that the press has produced “vast amounts of Fake News” and that this was responsible for his decision to label journalists the “enemy of the people.”


Sulzberger released a statement in response to Trump’s tweet, confirming that he and James Bennet, who oversees the paper’s editorial page, had in fact met with Trump on July 20 and that this was not unusual: Many former presidents and other public figures concerned about coverage have met with past publishers of the New York Times.

He felt compelled to offer the Times’ perspective on the meeting — based on their detailed notes — on Sunday morning after Trump put it on the record with his characterization of it on Twitter.

A.G. Sulzberger and President Trump (Photos: Rob Kim/Getty Images, Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
A.G. Sulzberger and President Trump (Photos: Rob Kim/Getty Images, Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sulzberger explained that his primary reason for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence,” Sulzberger said.

The Times publisher emphasized that Trump’s rhetoric is being used by some repressive regimes to justify cracking down on journalists abroad — putting lives in danger. He told Trump that his attacks on the media were undermining the United States’ democratic ideals and eating away at the nation’s commitment to free speech and a free press.

“Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world,” Sulzberger said. “I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.”

Trump routinely attacked the press on the campaign trail but started calling journalists the “enemy of the American people” shortly after taking office. Although past presidents have criticized the media, Trump’s phrase more closely resembles critiques from authoritarian leaders and 20th century dictators who wanted to confuse the public about which sources of information could and could not be trusted.

A few hours after the Times statement was published, Trump returned to Twitter with a rejuvenated hostility for the media. He turned Sulzberger’s argument on its head and argued that the press — supposedly driven to insanity by “Trump Derangement Syndrome” — puts many lives in danger (not only journalists) when it publishes information about the government’s internal deliberations. Trump accused the newspaper industry of being unpatriotic and ignoring his accomplishments so it could continue producing negative coverage of his administration.



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