The publisher of the New York Times said Sunday that he recently warned President Donald Trump that his attacks on journalists as the “enemy of the people” are contributing to a rise in threats and could lead to violence.
Trump revealed Sunday that he met at the White House with publisher A.G. Sulzberger and said they discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News.” The president said he explained to Sulzberger why he was increasingly characterizing journalists as the “enemy of the people.”
The president tweeted Sunday from his New Jersey golf estate, “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!”
The tweet prompted Sulzberger to release details of their July 20 meeting, at which he was accompanied by James Bennet, the Times’s editorial page editor.
A New York Times spokeswoman said that Trump had invited Sulzberger and that White House aides had asked that the meeting remain “off the record,” in keeping with past practice for such meetings, but that the president put it “on the record” with his Sunday tweet.
Sulzberger said in a lengthy statement, based on his and Bennet’s notes, that he agreed to the meeting with Trump “to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”
“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.”
He continued, “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. 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.”
The publisher went on to say, “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 White House has provided no details of Trump and Sulzberger’s conversation, beyond the president’s tweet.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Philip Rucker