‘Though I’ve been assured there was no malice involved in this mistake, we fell far short of our standards and values in this case…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Likely fearing a potential lawsuit, The New York Times refused to reveal the results of an internal investigation into why an anti-Semitic cartoon appeared in its Opinion section.
The Times was forced to apologize last week after it published a cartoon that depicted President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with large, hooked noses, wearing Jewish symbols—evoking for many the stereotypes found in Nazi propagandist caricatures.
The Times retracted the cartoon after receiving heavy backlash, and it published the following statement: “A political cartoon in the international print edition of The New York Times on Thursday included anti-Semitic tropes, depicting the prime minister of Israel as a guide dog with a Star of David collar leading the president of the United States, shown wearing a skullcap. The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it.”
The Times then vowed to hold an investigation into how and why the cartoon appeared in the Opinions section. But when confronted by investors at a meeting earlier this week, Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said the situation was an internal personnel matter and would be dealt with away from public view.
“The Times has fostered a culture that is so viscerally anti-conservative, anti-white and anti-Semitic that last week’s wildly anti-Semitic cartoon was not a mere oversight; it was inevitable. It was a reflection of the Times’s ethos,” Justin Danhof, president of the Free Enterprise Project, said at the meeting.
“Will you make the results of your internal investigation into the cartoon available to the public, including any persons who are being fired or disciplined and what structural changes the paper will make?” Danhof asked.
Sulzberger reportedly responded by insulting Danhof and accusing him of “peddling” conspiracy theories.
“Sulzberger and his cronies seem happy to condescend to conservatives and unwilling to listen to honest criticism,” Danhof said in a statement. “While he is in charge, expect the bias and barrage of fake news to persist as he continues to look down his nose at conservatives.”
The Times said it has adopted new editorial guidelines, which include an end to all syndicated cartoons, which are created by outside parties, and an end to its contract with CartoonArts International, the group that provided the controversial image.
“Disciplinary steps” have allegedly been taken with the production editor who selected the cartoon, as well.
“We are updating our unconscious bias training to ensure it includes a direct focus on anti-Semitism,” Sulzberger said in a statement published in The Times earlier this week. “This episode is a reminder that all of us are custodians of our trust and credibility with readers … Though I’ve been assured there was no malice involved in this mistake, we fell far short of our standards and values in this case.”
The word “malice” is a crucial one in libel law relating to public figures following the Supreme Court’s decision New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.
The use of it in his statement suggests that one primary avenue of concern for Sulzberger and The Times is the possibility that Trump or Netanyahu could sue for defamation if they were able to establish that the paper acted accordingly.
Of course, doing so would likely require that they had information regarding the internal deliberations leading to the cartoon’s publication—which is exactly what The Times seems determined to suppress.