Ted Cruz Responds to Former Obama Speechwriter Who Attacked Him Over NYT Criticism

August 20, 2019 Updated: August 20, 2019

Sen. Ted Cruz has responded to former President Barack Obama’s speechwriter, Jon Favreau, after he criticized the senator for calling out The New York Times following leaked comments from a top editor that revealed the publication had shifted its focus from the Russian collusion to the president’s character.

Cruz took to Twitter in a series of posts to criticize The Times after a transcript of a leaked speech by the newspaper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, was published by Slate. The transcript showed that Baquet and other members of the paper’s leadership attempted to quell staff concerns following a tumultuous start of the month.

During his address, Baquet said the paper’s focus went from looking at former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to the “president’s character.” Mueller’s probe found that the president did not collude with Russia to influence the election and did not provide a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice.

“We built our newsroom to cover one story [the Russian collusion story],” he said, adding that “we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story. I’d love your help with that.”

Responding to the report on Aug. 18, Cruz tweeted: “There was a time when journalists covered ‘news.’ The NYT has given up on even pretending anymore. Today, they are Pravda, a propaganda outlet by liberals, for liberals. These remarks at their ‘town hall’ are a scandal & would be a firing offense at any real journalistic outlet.”

He continued: “If you care about journalism, or the First Amendt, READ the transcript. The Editor says (in effect) ‘for 2 yrs, we covered ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,’ facts be damned; now we’ll scream ‘racism, racism, racism’ for 18 mos, and the rest of the media follow us.’ That’s not journalism.

“The NYT is destroying itself w/ Trump hatred. And it’s ultimately bad for freedom of the press when ‘journalists’ openly revel in being partisan propagandists. When our Nation is so tribalised that each side has their own “news” & “facts” and we don’t even talk to each other.

“It’s also deeply cynical—at a time when racial tensions are raw, for the NYT to be deliberately stoking the fires of racial tension & hatred. Ironically, their approach is the obverse of their original headline (before they succumbed to the mob): ‘NYT Urges Racism Vs Unity,'” he added.

Cruz continued his criticism the next day, questioning the Times’ journalistic ethics by quoting Baquet and using the newspaper’s 1619 project as an example. According to the project’s page, the 1619 project “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

“A real ‘journalist’ (rather than a propagandist) might analyze the transcript, see what the Editor said, have a fleeting concern w/ journalistic ethics. Not Harwood. We must defend the Old Grey Lady. My Tweets linked to actual transcript, encouraged you to read for yourself,” Cruz said.

“E.g., NYT: ‘One reason we all signed off on The 1619 Project [explained below] and made it so ambitious and expansive was TO TEACH OUR READERS TO THINK A LITTLE BIT MORE LIKE THAT.’ Does that sound like news? Or editorial? (Remember, this was the ‘News’ Editor.),” he continued.

He added: “The Editor continued: ‘Race in the next year…is going to be a huge part of the American story. And I mean, race in terms of not only African Americans and their relationship w/ Donald Trump, but Latinos & immigration.’ So, he’s explicit that this is the political narrative.”

Cruz’s thread prompted Favreau, who is now a liberal political podcast co-host, to defend the Times, saying: “Ted Cruz picking a bad faith media bias fight with the New York Times and then retweeting all of the glowing coverage from right-wing propaganda sites is literally everything you need to know about @tedcruz.”

Responding to Favreau, Cruz wrote: “Obama’s speechwriter demonstrates the problem. (1) He attacks, impugning motives, and ignores the substance. (2) With Dems (esp Obama), the media adoringly amplifies every word they say. (3) They refuse to cover any facts that conflict with their chosen Left-wing narrative.”

“So of course I retweet stories about the NYT scandal (from Fox, Wash Times, Daily Wire, etc.) BECAUSE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA REFUSES TO COVER IT. As best I can tell, ZERO stories in NYT, WaPo, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN. Like you, they ignore the actual transcript of the NYT town hall,” he added.

Last week, the paper demoted its deputy Washington editor, Jonathan Weisman, for “serious lapses in judgment” in making inappropriate comments on social media.

The publication also folded to pressure from readers to change a headline after it was accused of inaccurately depicting Trump’s comments on two recent mass shootings earlier this month.

During the town hall, Baquet admitted to staff that the paper was “little tiny bit flat-footed” after Mueller did not provide any new information during two House committee hearings last month. Democrats were counting on getting new information that could enable them to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.

“Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, ‘Holy [expletive], 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,” he said. “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?”

He then said that the paper needed to transition away from the Mueller story and focus on a new “vision” on addressing Trump and “race.”

“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?” he said.

Trump also weighed in on Baquet’s remarks, accusing the newspaper of taking part in a “Racism Witch Hunt.”

“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 on Twitter on Aug. 18.

“‘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!” he continued.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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