Former NY Times Top Editor Fights with Fox About Paper's Trump-and-Racism Hype

August 21st, 2019 3:22 PM

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson appeared on the Fox News program America's Newsroom on Wednesday morning to defend the Times after angry staffers leaked a transcript to Slate of an internal "town hall" meeting that executive editor Dean Baquet had with employees. Abramson was effusive over how Baquet's position was perfect, that he spoke out for "independent" journalism that holds people accountable. But she wouldn't accept the way Fox hosts framed the transcript: 

JON SCOTT: Essentially he told reporters and staffers that we started -- I hope you can hear me -- that we started trying to cover the Trump-Russia collusion narrative and that's kind of gone away. So now we are going to cover President Trump as a racist. Is that essentially what he says, would you agree with that?

JILL ABRAMSON: Yeah, no, I think you mischaracterized what he said. What he was explaining is that the paper had been set up to cover a deep investigative story out of Washington. And now they were pivoting to coverage of a general election where the job of The New York Times is to be out in the country figuring out how people feel and what they think. It was not telling people get ready to cover a racist administration. That is a complete mischaracterization of what he was saying.

SANDRA SMITH: But isn't that a characterization --

ABRAMSON: I've read that transcript twice.

The transcript shows that Baquet was pelted with questions about why Trump wasn't being called a racist in news stories and headlines, and Baquet tried to pander to in-house Trump-haters and say their "1619 Project" was "going to he most ambitious examination of the legacy of slavery ever undertaken" by a newspaper "to try to understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump." They can't see how this level of condescension leads to liberals losing. The dominant story of the 2020 campaign, they insist, is going to be race....because Trump. 

SMITH: Let me read you a piece of that transcript and we've also taken the opportunity to read through that as well, where he is questioned by his staffers pretty aggressively. Here is a bit of it. "We built our newsroom to cover one story and we did it truly well....Now, we have to regroup. It's a story that requires deep investigation and people who peddle hatred. It helps us write about race and class in a different way than we have in years." 

That was a point in which it was really criticized. You heard some members of congress including Ted Cruz end of their speaking out pretty aggressively about that, revealing an intentional shift in coverage from the Russia narrative to now race in covering the president, is that fair? 

ABRAMSON: I think that's an overstatement. If you look at the totality of what Dean said it, he was urging his staff to make a pivot to cover out in the country in all  America, not just in Washington, but how people are feeling to understand deeply why they elected Donald Trump in 2016, and why they may possibly do so again in 2016 [sic], to really get in touch with the country. And that will involve, for sure, understanding why white nationalism is on the rise, why we have seen some racist incidents, and I think that is what he was doing, if you look at the full transcript. 

Abramson was candid that Fox may think Trump coverage is too harsh, the liberal base of subscribers to the Times think it's not harsh enough!