Donald Trump’s rants against the media — and in particular, his use of the phrase “enemy of the people” — has increased the danger journalists face across the world, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said Tuesday at Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“What I’m really concerned about is the broader affect [Trump’s criticism is] having on this sort of culture in the United States, a country where freedom of the press and freedom of expression has always been among our most essential rights,” Sulzberger said. “And then, in particular, the incredibly dangerous climate that has been created abroad, where this has basically been read by dictators and tyrants around the world, legitimizing their own efforts to crackdown on the press. We’ve seen unprecedented numbers of attacks on journalists, harassment on journalists.”
Moderator Peter Kafka asked Sulzberger if he draws a direct connection between the president’s comments and the threat journalists face outside the U.S. “I do,” Sulzberger replied, noting what he says is a measurable increase in foreign politicians using the phrase “fake news” to denigrate the media.
According to a 2018 report by British human rights organization Article 19, 78 journalists were killed and more than 300 were imprisoned in 2017, a 10-year global high. The report also cites a sharp rise in restrictions on media in countries like Russia, Turkey and Hungary in recent years.
Sulzberger, who drew laughs from the conference audience when he said the president was “obviously” a “loyal reader,” said he was especially unsettled by his use of the phrase “enemy of the people,” something he said harkens back to Stalinist Russia.
Sulzberger also pointed to a disparity between President Trump’s public and “private posture” towards the media. He recalled a meeting with Trump where his secretary told him he had several important calls to return. Trump, according to Sulzberger, responded “what could be more important than The New York Times?”
Kafka then asked which side truly reflects the president’s stance.
“What’s his real view? When you’re the president of the United States, we need to take you at your word,” Sulzberger said.