NYT publisher: Trump 'retreating from a distinctly American principle'

Arthur "A.G." Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, and Donald Trump. (Photo illustration by Yahoo News; photos: Michael Cohen/Getty Images for the New York Times; Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images/Shutterstock)

New York Times publisher Arthur “A.G.” Sulzberger responded to what he called “President Trump’s continued attacks on a free press” Wednesday, hours after Trump lashed out at the paper as a “true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.”

Sulzberger wrote that Trump’s “demonizing the free press as the enemy, simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle.”

The latest standoff between the Times and the White House followed the paper’s Tuesday publication of an in-depth examination of Trump’s efforts to discredit and derail multiple investigations into his presidential campaign and actions in office. Among the claims in the Times’ latest bombshell was one in which the president had directed his former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to install a Trump loyalist to take charge of an investigation by the Southern District of New York into hush money payments Trump had made to women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump’s former longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, said he made those payments at Trump’s direction. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to various charges, including campaign finance.

On Wednesday, Trump blasted the paper using the same language that Sulzberger had warned the president represented a real threat to the safety of journalists worldwide.

Hours later, the Times responded directly to the president’s tweet.

In his statement posted later in the day, Sulzberger referenced his July meeting with the president, at which he warned Trump that his frequent, derogatory characterizations of the media “will lead to violence.”

“The phrase ‘enemy of the people’ is not just false, it’s dangerous. It has an ugly history of being wielded by dictators and tyrants who sought to control public information. And it is particularly reckless coming from someone whose office gives him broad powers to fight or imprison the nation’s enemies. As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”

After he met with Sulzberger in July, Trump seemed sympathetic to Sulzberger’s points.

But Trump quickly returned to form, unleashing a string of tweets that raged against perceived media bias against his administration. The president accused “the failing New York Times and the Amazon Washington Post” of writing “bad stories even on very positive achievements.”

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