When the history of this awful era in America is written, there will be no shortage of villains in the Trump story, be it the president himself, the apparatchiks who enabled him, the party elders who abided him or the right-wing television hosts who egged him on.
Many of the president's critics will be lauded for standing up to his regime, but a few key figures will be remembered in particular for leading the fight to protect the Constitution from this unmoored leader. We suspect from the events of the past week that Arthur Gregg Sulzberger will be among them.
If there were any doubts that the young new publisher of the
New York Times
has come into his own, they should have been dispelled by an extraordinary statement he released Wednesday in response to a tweet from Trump that branded the
an “enemy of the people.” Many of us had grown inured to that odious term, but A.G., as he is known, obviously wasn’t one of them.
“The phrase ‘enemy of the people’ is not just false, it’s dangerous,” Sulzberger wrote. “It has an ugly history of being wielded by dictators and tyrants who sought to control public information. And it is particularly reckless coming from someone whose office gives him broad powers to fight or imprison the nation’s enemies.
“As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”
Rarely has a
publisher - much less one who’s held his job for just 51 days - spoken out in such raw defiance of the government.
publishers have typically focused on the boardroom and left the public combat to their editors. Even in the maelstrom of the Pentagon Papers case, A.G.’s grandfather Punch Sulzberger deferred to his voluble executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, to lead the charge.
But these times are anything but typical, and A.G., who spent years as a reporter, isn’t cut from a corporate cloth. The sight of a Sulzberger using his considerable power to stand up to a president in support of a free press – in support of
– was a sight to behold.
To be sure, it is Sulzberger’s reporters and editors who have been the enduring heroes of the Trump era (the president’s broadside was sparked by a
investigation chronicling his attempts to impede various investigations). Executive Editor Dean Baquet and his staff have been brilliant - and fearless - in their coverage of Trump. And, to be sure, the same holds true at the rival
where publisher Jeff Bezos (!) and editor Marty Baron are running an inspired news operation.
But only one man controls the most important news organization in the world. A.G. Sulzberger seems to grasp the moral authority that comes with his title - and that these frightening times will require him to use it.