The executive editor of The New York Times said on Monday that a headline saying President Trump had urged unity against racism after two mass shooting shook the nation was “a f***ing mess.”
During a hastily arranged meeting lasting more than an hour, The Daily Beast reported, Dean Baquet and the paper’s top leadership discussed how to address charges of racism against Trump — and that headline.
After two mass shootings within hours left 32 dead and 52 wounded, Trump delivered a somber statement from the White House. He laid out several avenues as potential solutions, called for unity and bipartisanship, soothed Americans as the comforter-in-chief and loudly denounced racism and white supremacy.
“Together, we lock arms to shoulder the grief, we ask God in Heaven to ease the anguish of those who suffer, and we vow to act with urgent resolve,” he said. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. … Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love.”
An editor at The Times wrote a headline for the first edition of the print newspaper that sought to capture the essence of the president’s speech: “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.” But liberals berated the paper for even implying that Trump might not be a card-carrying KKK member.
Former Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, a candidate for the presidential nomination in 2020, found it “unbelievable.” Sen. Cory Booker, another 2020 hopeful, wrote: “Lives literally depend on you doing better, NYT. Please do.” “That’s not what happened,” said candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic socialist the Democratic National Committee chairman called “the future of the party,” jumped in. “Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by — and often relies upon — the cowardice of mainstream institutions,” she wrote on Twitter.
In their Monday meeting, Banquet told top editors that the person who wrote the headline is “sick” about it. “He feels terrible,” Baquet said.
“The top editor reiterated that the headline was a mistake — ‘It was a f***ing mess,’ he told the staff — but joined other newsroom leaders in cautioning staff not to overreact to Twitter comments about the paper’s editorial decisions,” the Beast reported.
For its second edition — after a flurry of criticism on Twitter — the editors threw out the “unity” headline and subbed it for: “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.”
“Baquet said the paper shouldn’t allow itself to be edited by Twitter outrage,” the Beast wrote.
During Monday’s meeting, Baquet, the first African-American executive editor of the paper, emphasized that rather than simply labeling the president or other leaders “racist” or using euphemisms like “racially charged,” the paper should demonstrate instances of racism through concrete examples.