President Trump revealed Sunday that he’d had a meeting with New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, in which he expressed his concerns about the media’s bias and their preoccupation with printing stories of scandal and White House intrigue, much of which is based on anonymous sourcing and little else.
“Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!” Trump wrote.
The tweet referenced a meeting Trump apparently had with the publisher on July 20, and it inspired Sulzberger to respond with a statement of his own.
“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” Sulzberger said. “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.
“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists,” he continued. “I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”
Sulzberger finished his statement by saying: “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. 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.”
The meeting and the public accounts mark the latest chapter in Trump’s ongoing war with the mainstream media (and vice versa). We have to wonder if Sulzberger is really so concerned about “journalists abroad,” or if he is simply scrambling to save the reputation of his own failing newspaper. Naturally, he’s going to characterize his complaints in a way that makes him appear altruistic and heroic, but then again, no one has the power to do more for journalism’s reputation than him.
From what we’ve seen from the Times’ coverage this year, he doesn’t seem particularly worried about it.