What it's like to be a conservative columnist at the New York Times

David Brooks says he's 'hated on a mass scale' by readers — not that he's complaining

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
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Journalist David Brooks speaks at the launch of the unaffiliated political organization known as No Labels on December 13, 2010, at Columbia University in New York City. The event features numerous politicians, journalists and citizens in a series of panels which address some of the most intractable political issues in America. Led by Republican political consultant Mark McKinnon, Democratic consultant Kiki McLean, political advisor Nancy Jacobson and CNN contributor John Avlon, the group looks to find solutions to problems partly by getting politicians to put aside their partisan behavior in order to find common ground. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

ASPEN, Colo. — New York Times columnist David Brooks gets a lot of hate mail. And he doesn't read the comments section.

"I used to read them, but it was just too psychologically damaging," Brooks said in an interview with Yahoo News' Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday. "So then I would ask my assistant to read them."

Brooks was shocked at the volume of "punishingly negative" comments when he joined the Times in 2003.

"It was the worst six months of my life," he said. "I had never been hated on a mass scale before."

The conservative columnist received more than 290,000 emails during his first six months at the left-leaning paper. "The core message was, 'Paul Krugman is great; you suck,'" Brooks recalled.

But on the street, Brooks rarely hears from haters. "I think in my whole life I've had two people  come up and be nasty to me," Brooks said. "Once I was at the Museum of Modern Art and this astoundingly good-looking woman came up to me and said, 'I hate you.'"

Hot haters aside, there are plenty of reasons for the 52-year-old to stay at the Times: He has unprecedented freedom and job security. Times columnists, Brooks said, are treated like "hothouse flowers."

"I've never attended a meeting at the Times," he said. "We can write about anything. I've been at the Times for over a decade, I've never had a performance review. We can go anywhere we want. And we are just left alone."

Stubbornly, Brooks does not have a Twitter account. "I don't have a lot of ideas, so I'm not going to waste them on Twitter," he said.

Brooks believes he — like the Times print edition — will still be published in 10 years.

"They're making new old people every day," Brooks joked of the Times' print demographic. "I think I'll have a job in 10 years that looks very similar to the one I have now."

And he gets to have regular, off-the-record meetings with U.S. presidents.

In them, Brooks says he's seen President Barack Obama become increasingly "pissed off" with Republicans, Democrats and the media during his second term as he's become more "acutely aware with the limits of the office."

During Obama's first term, the vibe was decidedly different. "He'd be carried in on chariots," Brooks joked, with then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel "throwing rose petals."

Not that Brooks has made many friends in the White House. The "Obama people" are respectful when they tell him, "We really like you. ... It's so sad you're a complete and total idiot."

Watch the full interview:

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