New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, joined by his atrocious opinion page editor James Bennet, recently met with President Donald Trump for a meeting that, at his request, was off the record. And then the Times got played, because no one ever learns.
Journalists were shocked, just shocked, when Trump leveraged the fact that the meeting was held off the record to broadly lie about what was discussed on his Twitter feed on Sunday.
This act of aggression could not stand, so Sulzberger responded with a statement saying the meeting was meant to address Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”
“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” he also said in the statement, which goes on for nearly another 200 words not worth reprinting or discussing further here.
Why, you ask? Aren’t the cries of BUT SIR, EXCUSE ME SIR from the Times boy-king critical to the discourse? No, because he lost. He lost as soon as he agreed to take an off the record meeting—an unwarranted and unearned display of fellowship and good faith that has been repeatedly afforded to this president—with a known liar. Of course Trump broke their agreement by lying about the meeting on Twitter. That part is not surprising. What’s amazing is how mainstream journalists again and again try to engage with Trump using the same backdoor, we’re-all-on-the-same-side-really processes while expecting a different result. Here’s an idea that’s not new but apparently still novel: Stop agreeing to off the record meetings with the lying man. He will betray your shoddy agreement and make you look like a fool while giving the public nothing. Don’t make it easier for him.
Update, 12:50 pm: BuzzFeed News reported that Times editor Dean Baquet didn’t attend the meeting, citing his own “personal” rule about such private meetings (that he’s occasionally broken anyway).
“As a rule I don’t go off the record with high-ranking officials, particularly the president,” Baquet said in an email to the site. “As the person overseeing coverage, I don’t think officials should be able to tell me things that I can’t publish. And I don’t want to be courted or wooed.”