In a series of tweets over the weekend, President Trump highlighted a leaked transcript from a New York Times staff town hall meeting in which the paper’s executive editor openly stated that over the last two years the paper had “built [its] newsroom to cover one story” — the Robert Mueller-debunked Trump-Russia “collusion” narrative — and was now shifting to Trump’s “racism” and “division.”
After suffering backlash from several Democratic presidential candidates and other left-wing critics over a straightforward front-page headline accurately describing Trump’s speech on the El Paso and Dayton shootings as “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM,” the Times caved to the pressure and altered its headline to “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.” The next Monday, the paper held a “crisis townhall meeting,” the transcript of which was leaked by Slate. In the meeting, the Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet openly stated that the paper has had a clear agenda in how it’s covered Trump and is shifting now to a new agenda.
“We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well,” said Baquet in reference to the narrative that Trump had colluded with Russia, a claim dismantled by the special counsel’s exhaustive investigation. “Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story,” said Baquet. His “vision” for how to cover Trump for “the rest of the next two years”: How America has “become so divided by Donald Trump,” particularly when it comes to race.
After highlighting the leaked transcript in a tweet on Saturday, calling it a “disgrace” for the “once great” New York Times, Trump addressed it more fully on Sunday.
“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,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets. “‘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!”
As The Daily Wire highlighted Friday, the Times’ staff-wide townhall meeting last Monday started off with Baquet addressing the paper’s recent “missteps” in covering Trump, a reference in part to the “Unity vs. Racism” headline. Baquet then openly stated that the paper had built itself to push a narrative that ended up being false, leaving them “a little tiny bit flat-footed.” Now, he explained repeatedly over the course of the 75-minute meeting, they are going to focus on how Trump “divides” the nation, particularly when it comes to race.
Here’s Baquet in his opening statement to the staff admitting that they have approached “reporting” with a particular narrative in mind for the first half of Trump’s term:
Baquet: Chapter 1 of the story of Donald Trump, not only for our newsroom but, frankly, for our readers, was: Did Donald Trump have untoward relationships with the Russians, and was there obstruction of justice? That was a really hard story, by the way, let’s not forget that. We set ourselves up to cover that story. I’m going to say it. We won two Pulitzer Prizes covering that story. And I think we covered that story better than anybody else.
The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, “Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it.” And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically, I think. Because, you know, for obvious reasons. And I think that the story changed. A lot of the stuff we’re talking about started to emerge like six or seven weeks ago. We’re a little tiny bit flat-footed. I mean, that’s what happens when a story looks a certain way for two years. Right?
What “changed”? The Mueller report destroyed the narrative the paper had pushed for two years. And what new narrative has “emerged”? Here is Baquet spelling out the new “vision” for the paper:
Baquet: 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? How do we cover the world’s reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? How do we cover America, that’s become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? 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.