More than three years after Donald Trump rode the down escalator inside Trump Tower to announce his radical campaign for president, more than three years after he began waging a vicious war on the free press in the United States and around the world, and years after he adopted dictator rhetoric and began smearing hardworking journalists as “enemies of the people,” the New York Times still doesn’t have the collective spine to stand up to the Oval Office bully.
Signaling once again that the paper cherishes access above all, Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger on Thursday joined Times White House reporters Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker for an on-the-record interview with Trump. Sulzberger was present ostensibly to press Trump on his use of "fake news" and his dangerous, unprecedented, and relentless attacks on the news media.
“The effects are not just being felt with the outlets who you feel are treating you unfairly,” said Sulzberger. “They’re being felt all over the world, including folks who are literally putting their lives on the line to report the truth.”
But in the end, as so often happens with the Times in the Trump era, the interview became a wasted opportunity as Sulzberger toothlessly made his objections and Trump pretended not to know his words were having consequences. Then Trump just lied his way through the Q&A, and also complained about his press coverage.
Astonishingly, in an Oval Office conversation about the mortal threats Trump's anti-press rhetoric now poses to journalists worldwide, the name Jamal Khashoggi was only mentioned once, and then just in passing. A Virginia resident and Washington Post contributor, Khashoggi, a longtime critic of the Saudi royal family, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last year. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely gave the order for the gruesome execution.
Yet Trump to this day won't accept his own CIA's assessment of the Virginia journalist's assassination, as he covers for the murderous Middle Eastern regime. If Sulzberger were serious about his commitment to battling Trump's "fake news" crusade, the publisher would have spent 20 minutes discussing the Khashoggi case, demanding action from the administration, and raising his voice on behalf of journalists worldwide who remain horrified about the killing and Trump's pathetic response to it.
But that's not what Sulzberger did.
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