Former NY Times editor says Fox took her book out of context


NEW YORK | Jill Abramson, the former editor of The New York Times, said Thursday that Fox News took her critique of the newspaper’s Trump coverage in her soon-to-be-released book “totally out of context” for a story that appeared this week.

FILE – In this April 19, 2010, file photo, Jill Abramson attends the 2010 Matrix Awards presented by the New York Women in Communications at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Abramson, the former editor of The New York Times, says that Fox News took her criticism of the newspaper’s Trump coverage “totally out of context” in a story that appeared Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

The Fox story, headlined “Former NY Times editor rips Trump coverage as biased,” quotes from Abramson’s book, “Merchants of Truth.” In her book, Abramson wrote that although current Times executive editor Dean Baquet publicly said he didn’t want the newspaper to be the opposition party, “his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump.” With a predominantly liberal audience, “there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative,” she wrote in the book.

Abramson was executive editor of the Times from 2011 to 2014 before being fired after having a dispute with Baquet, one of her deputies. She said in an email interview with The Associated Press that the Fox article’s author, “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz, had ignored compliments that she had for the Times and The Washington Post.

“His article is an attempt to Foxify my book, which is full of praise for The Times and The Washington Post and their coverage of Trump,” she wrote in the email.

Kurtz said in a phone interview with the AP that he was “sorry to see Jill back away from her own words” and that his report was accurate.

“I would have written this story the same way if I were working for any news organization,” said Kurtz, a former Washington Post media columnist. “Her sometimes harsh criticism of her former paper’s Trump coverage leaps off the page and is clearly the most newsworthy element in the book because of her standing as a former executive editor.”

Their spat is yet another example of a polarized media environment in the Trump era. Abramson’s book talks about that at length, and criticizes Trump for seeking to undermine reporting about him. Shortly after Kurtz’s story was posted on Wednesday, it was picked up by several news outlets popular with Trump supporters, including Breitbart News, NewsMax, the Washington Times, the New York Post and the Hill.

Abramson wrote that the more anti-Trump that the Times was perceived to be, the more it was mistrusted for being biased.

The late publisher Arthur Ochs’ promise to cover the news without fear or favor “sounded like an impossible promise in such a polarized environment, where the very definition of ‘fact’ and ‘truth’ was under constant assault,” she wrote in the book.

Eileen Murphy, spokeswoman for the Times, sided with Ochs in saying that every administration complains about press scrutiny.

“We take pride in our long history of journalistic independence and commitment to covering the news without fear or favor,” she said. The Post declined comment on Abramson’s assertion that its news coverage was also anti-Trump.

The plain-spoken Abramson has drawn attention in the past for criticizing her old newspaper, recently chiding the Times for not doing reporting that could have foreseen the rise of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s also offered praise, saying in her book that Baquet’s decision for the newspaper to bluntly call some of Trump’s remarks a lie was “brave and right.”

In her email, Abramson notes that Kurtz ignored her passage in the book saying that under Baquet’s leadership, the depth and intensity of its accountability coverage of Trump “was masterful. On most days it outshone the Post’s. The news report as a whole had never been stronger.”