President Trump’s lying tweet forced the New York Times to go on the record with their version of a meeting with Trump which had originally been off the record, in which publisher A.G. Sulzberger warned the President that his rhetoric about journalists and the press was dangerous and would lead to violence.
This matters because the White House puts out “statements” daily that have little bearing to reality, much like the difference between Trump’s tweet below and the publisher of the Time’s version of events.
Trump’s version is that they spent a lot of time talking about the “vast amounts of fake news being put out by the media and how somehow this fake news has morphed into a phrase, ‘Enemy of the People,; as if he has no relationship to this phrase and as if the publisher of the Times agreed with him about “fake news.”
“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!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
However, the publisher of the New York Times said in a statement that in fact he warned Trump about his “dangerous” attacks on journalists and the free press — a correction and fact that the publisher never would have put out on his own, but felt he had to do once Trump took their off the record meeting on the record and inaccurately portrayed it, and the publisher and by proxy the New York Times, to the public.
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) July 29, 2018
The statement says that A.G. went to the White House, accompanied by James Bennet, who oversees the editorial page of The Times and that the meeting was off the record, per the president’s aides.
Noting that Trump’s tweet put the meeting on the record, they say “A.G. has decided to respond to the president’s characterization of their conversation, based on detailed notes A.G. and James took.”
“My main purpose for accepting the meeting was 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.
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.
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.”
There’s more at the link, but this is the heart of the discussion- the dangerous implications of Trump’s rhetoric.
Nowhere in this meeting did the publisher agree with the president about “fake news” – in fact, the opposite, A.G. warned Trump that it was dangerous.
A.G. warned Trump that he was not only endangering free speech here, but abroad and this his language would lead to violence.
Shortly after Trump took office in January of 2017, on February 17, 2017 he started using the phrase “Enemy of the People” to describe the press, much like dictators do. Trump is trying to silence the free press.
Hitler, Stalin and Mao all called their critics “Enemies of the People.”
They did this because it created doubt, which covered for their assaults on human rights. They did this because they were not going to be accountable or transparent, which are hallmarks of a democratic and free government.
Donald Trump’s tweet moves the goal posts and conflates things in such a way as to suggest that the publisher of the New York Times agreed with him. This is a lie.
The truth is, and this matters for the same reason the truth always matters but especially because why is the president of the United States lying about its top paper’s publisher and thinking he can get away with it, A.G. warned Trump to knock off the fake news lies.
Trump took that warning and turned it into fuel for further lies and disparagement as if to say even the New York Times publisher agrees with him that he is maligned by the press.
If you look at Trump’s tweet versus the statement issued by the Times, you might be shocked. But instead, you should know that lies of this magnitude come out of this White House every hour almost. Their “statements” and claims made about the most seemingly innocuous things are actually rarely accurate. Often they are as far as Trump’s tweet is from the notes two respected editors took on that meeting.
When a statement comes out of this White House, it should be eyed skeptically and with the recognition that “reality” is whatever Donald Trump wants it to be now; not what actually is or can be measured.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.