On the heels of President Donald Trump’s tweet on Wednesday morning that The New York Times is “a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE,” the famed newspaper’s publisher penned a response in which he compared the president to a dictator.
“In demonizing the free press as the enemy, simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle. It’s a principle that previous occupants of the Oval Office fiercely defended regardless of their politics, party affiliation, or complaints about how they were covered,” writes A.G. Sulzberger in a note published on the Times’ press website.
He adds that Trump’s use of the phrase “enemy of the people” is “not just false, it’s dangerous.”
“It has an ugly history of being wielded by dictators and tyrants who sought to control public information. And it is particularly reckless coming from someone whose office gives him broad powers to fight or imprison the nation’s enemies,” Sulzberger says.
“As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad,” Sulzberger continues
He ends his response by saying that the Times has served the public through “33 presidential administrations, across 167 years” and will continue to “help people, regardless of their backgrounds or politics, understand their country and the world.” He writes that the paper will report independently, fairly and accurately, ask the hard questions and “pursue the truth wherever it leads.”
Trump’s rhetoric against the Times was in response to an explosive report published on Tuesday titled “Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him.” The piece revealed that Trump asked then–acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put attorney Geoffrey Berman in charge of the investigation into Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.
Berman recused himself from the investigation because of “a routine conflict of interest,” the article said, and it appeared that Whitaker did not take “any direct steps to intervene.”
Trump called the report “fake news” and claimed that no reporters reached out to him about the story. A spokeswoman from the Department of Justice said in a statement that the White House did not ask Whitaker to interfere.
Before Sulzberger weighed in, Maggie Haberman, one of Times article’s reporters, rejected Trump’s claims and insisted that she sent several emails to the White House about the story “that went unanswered until yesterday.”
“We went through a detailed list of what we were planning on reporting. They chose not to engage, and then afterwards the president acts surprised,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“Now, whether his aides are not telling him what we are looking at or whether this is a game and he knows what it is and he’s pretending that he doesn’t, I can’t read his mind. We certainly followed normal reporting practices and went over it at length with both the White House and the Department of Justice.”
She added that she found “it hard to believe that his staff didn’t brief him once again that this kind of a report was coming.”