President Trump on Sunday accused the “Failing New York Times” of launching a “Racism Witch Hunt” after a leaked recording allegedly showed the newspaper discussing a pivot from focusing on the Russia collusion investigation to racism and Mr. Trump.
“The Failing New York Times, in one of the most devastating portrayals of bad journalism in history, got caught by a leaker that they are shifting from their Phony Russian Collusion Narrative (the Mueller Report & his testimony were a total disaster), to a Racism Witch Hunt,” tweeted the president.
He continued: “‘Journalism’ has reached a new low in the history of our Country. It is nothing more than an evil propaganda machine for the Democrat Party. The reporting is so false, biased and evil that it has now become a very sick joke … But the public is aware!”
Mr. Trump was hardly alone.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted Sunday that the newspaper was “destroying itself” with “Trump hatred.”
“The Editor says (in effect) ‘for 2 yrs, we covered “Russia, Russia, Russia,” facts be damned; now we’ll scream “racism, racism, racism” for 18 mos, and the rest of the media will follow us,’” tweeted Mr. Cruz. “That’s not journalism.”
Conservatives were stunned by the transcript of the staff “town hall” led by executive editor Dean Baquet, a recording of which was leaked to Slate, which posted last week what it described as a transcript.
“Leaked Audio: NY Times shifts targeting of Trump from Russian collusion to racism,” said Friday’s Legal Insurrection headline.
“This is a smoking gun. It shows the most powerful news organization in the country congratulating itself for setting the anti-Trump narrative on Russia collusion, and seamlessly transitioning to setting a narrative of Trump as racist after collusion flopped,” said Legal Insurrection’s William A. Jacobson, a Cornell Law School professor.
The staff meeting was called after the newspaper came under fire on the left for a headline about Mr. Trump following this month’s back-to-back shootings. The headline at the top of the Aug. 6 print edition was switched for second edition from “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism” to “Assailing Hate But Not Guns.”
At the town hall, Mr. Baquet engaged in a discussion with staff about the use of the term “racist,” then said that after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia campaign collusion ended, “two things happened.”
“Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, ‘Holy s—-, Bob Mueller is not going to do it,’” said Mr. Baquet. “And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically.”
As a result, he said, “I think that we’ve got to change. I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks?”
Mr. Baquet concluded: “How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that’s what we’re going to have to do for the rest of the next two years.”
Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Sunday that the “most troubling part” was Mr. Baquet acknowledging that readers “cheer us when we take on Donald Trump.”
He added that Trump voters don’t read the Times.
“Sadly, the paper I have subscribed to for 40 years is not as independent as its editor admirably claims,” tweeted Mr. Fleischer. “Baquet acknowledged who does and does not read his paper. When a paper’s readership is that tilted, its stories won’t be far behind.”
The Washington Times has reached out to The New York Times for comment.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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