NY Times publisher: Trump complicit in worldwide threat to journalism

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger in a new op-ed alleges that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE accepts or even encourages "brutal crackdowns" on journalists worldwide.

"The hard work of journalism has long carried risks, especially in countries without democratic safeguards. But what’s different today is that these brutal crackdowns are being passively accepted and perhaps even tacitly encouraged by the president of the United States," Sulzberger wrote in a column in the paper published Tuesday.

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"To give you a sense of what this retreat looks like on the ground, let me tell you a story I’ve never shared publicly before," he added, sharing the story of Declan Walsh, an Irish national employed by the Times in Egypt. 

"Two years ago, we got a call from a United States government official warning us of the imminent arrest of a New York Times reporter based in Egypt named Declan Walsh. Though the news was alarming, the call was actually fairly standard. Over the years, we’ve received countless such warnings from American diplomats, military leaders and national security officials," he wrote

"But this particular call took a surprising and distressing turn. We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration," Sulzberger added. "Rather than trying to stop the Egyptian government or assist the reporter, the official believed, the Trump administration intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out. The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger."

Sulzberger said that the Times was forced to contact Irish diplomats instead, who quickly arrived to Walsh’s home and ushered him to a plane before an arrest could be made.

“Those of us leading The Times find it hard not to worry, knowing we have colleagues on the ground where war is raging, disease is spreading and conditions deteriorating,” Sulzberger continued. “But we’ve long taken comfort in knowing that in addition to all our own preparations and all our own safeguards, there has always been another, critical safety net: the United States government, the world’s greatest champion of the free press. Over the last few years, however, something has dramatically changed.”

Sulzberger, 39, who took over as Times publisher from his father, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., in December 2017, has had several public clashes with Trump in recent months.

Last week, Trump ripped the Times repeatedly over a report regarding new sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump urged to hire chief strategist for impeachment fight Anita Hill: Kavanaugh's confirmation filled me with 'profound sadness and disappointment' Majority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll MORE. The paper's handling of the story, which initially omitted the fact that a new Kavanaugh accuser involved in an alleged incident at Yale more than 30 years ago did not speak to the Times and that her friends say she does not recall it, was also criticized by several news organizations, including The Washington Post, CNN and USA Today.

"The New York Times is now blaming an editor for the horrible mistake they made in trying to destroy or influence Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It wasn’t the editor, the Times knew everything. They are sick and desperate, losing in so many ways!" Trump tweeted to his more than 64 million followers.

In the new op-ed, Sulzberger noted Trump has used the phrase “fake news” more than 600 times on Twitter.

“The United States has done more than any other country to popularize the idea of free expression and to champion the rights of the free press. The time has come for us to fight for those ideals again," Sulzberger concludes.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.