Trump Accuses NYT of Going on ‘Racism Witch Hunt’ Following Leaked Remarks From Top Editor

August 18, 2019 Updated: August 18, 2019

President Donald Trump took to Twitter early on Aug. 18 to call out The New York Times, accusing the newspaper of taking part in a “Racism Witch Hunt,” as he continued to draw attention to the leaked comments by the newspaper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet.

“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 while referencing Baquet’s comments he made in a staff town hall that were leaked to and published by Slate late last week.

“‘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.

“With all that this Administration has accomplished, think what my Poll Numbers would be if we had an honest Media, which we do not!” he added.

During the 75-minute meeting, Baquet and other members of the paper’s leadership met with staff to address concerns following a tumultuous start of the month. Earlier this 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.

According to the meeting, Baquet said the paper’s focus “went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character,” referring to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The investigation 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.”

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 has frequently called out the publication and its staff for what he says is inaccurate and biased reporting. When reacting to Weisman’s demotion earlier this week he said the editor should have been fired instead of being reassigned.

“Wow! The Deputy Editor of the Failing New York Times was just demoted. Should have been Fired! Totally biased and inaccurate reporting. The paper is a Fraud, Zero Credibility. Fake News takes another hit, but this time a big one!” he wrote.

He has repeatedly described The New York Times as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.”

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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