Columnist David Brooks quits think-tank job amid conflict concerns

Columnist David Brooks quits think-tank job amid conflict concerns
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New York Times columnist David Brooks has resigned from a think-tank job he has held since 2018 over issues involving conflicts of interest.

In a statement on Saturday, a Times spokeswoman acknowledged Brooks had not informed his current management team at the newspaper about the salary he was drawing from the Aspen Institute for his work with a project called Weave: The Social Fabric Project.

“The current Opinion editors were unaware of this arrangement and have concluded that holding a paid position at Weave presents a conflict of interest for David in writing about the work of the project, its donors or the broader issues it focuses on,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

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Brooks has resigned from Aspen but will still volunteer for the project, she added.

“Going forward The Times will disclose this unpaid relationship,” she added. “We are also in the process of adding disclosures to any earlier columns in which David refers to the work of Weave or its donors.”

BuzzFeed News first reported the move.

The Aspen Institute on Saturday confirmed Brooks's resignation.
 
"This morning, David Brooks notified the Aspen Institute that he is resigning, effective immediately, from his paid position with Weave: The Social Fabric Project and will continue to serve in an unpaid capacity," the group said in an emailed statement.

On PBS Friday night, Brooks denied his work for Aspen had compromised his reporting for the Times or PBS, where he is often a contributor. He also said he had fully informed the Times about his work for Aspen, where he was drawing a second salary. He did not, however, explain why he had not disclosed that to readers when writing about Weave or Facebook, which has donated money to Aspen.

Brooks could not be reached for comment by The Hill and the Times did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Aspen Institute also did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

BuzzFeed reported on other instances of potential conflict for Brooks surrounding his roles writing and commenting on social and political issues and his connections to Aspen.

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On "Meet the Press" in March 2020, Brooks advised people — in light of the pandemic — to connect with each other on the neighborhood-based social app Nextdoor, even though that social platform was a Weave donor.

Brooks tweeted the same advice at approximately the same time.

 

In addition, Brooks made an appearance in a video produced by the Walton Family Foundation. That group has also helped fund the Weave project, according to BuzzFeed.

The Times has had to publicly deal with two other personnel controversies recently. Earlier in the year, veteran public health reporter Donald McNeil resigned from the paper over allegations he had made inappropriate comments about race and used a racial slur while acting as a guide on a Times-sponsored student trip.

At around the same time, audio journalist Andy Mills resigned after reports of past behavior, specifically, allegations of unwanted touching and sexual harassment, resurfaced. Mills helped create “The Daily” podcast and also produced and co-hosted the 2018 podcast “Caliphate,” which a Times investigation found had several factual errors.

Updated: 4:10 p.m.