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A.G. Sulzberger wrote an op-ed for Monday's New York Times. He's the publisher so he can do that if he wants. We're guaranteed to enjoy it more than the average David Brooks piece. Sulzberger has a serious issue to discuss with us slobs whose fathers and grandfathers never owned newspapers.

New York Times

That "growing threat" isn't really an opinion. He should've printed this in the "fact" section of the Times. This op-ed was recycled from remarks Sulzberger made yesterday at Brown University. So we start off with a "joke."

SULZBERGER: Our mission at The New York Times is to seek the truth and help people understand the world. That takes many forms, from investigations on sexual abuse that helped spark the global #MeToo movement; to expert reporting that reveals how technology is reshaping every facet of modern life; to important and hard-hitting cultural commentary, like when we proclaimed "the Aperol spritz is not a good drink."

Yes, the Times declared in May that the Aperol spritz "drinks like a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day." I was in New York a couple weeks ago and people were still ordering the hell out of that drink, which tells you what cultural clout the Times wields these days. Jay-Z did more damage to Cristal. However, this somewhat buries the lede that Donald Trump left A NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER TO DIE IN EGYPT!


Sulzberger goes on for more than 1,000 words -- during which time you could enjoy at least two Aperol spritzes -- before clearly stating that the "growing threat" to a free press isn't just from foreign dictators who wear military uniforms and funny hats but from a US president who wears ill-fitting suits and funny hair. Enjoy these 21st and 22nd paragraphs of Sulzberger's op-ed!

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.

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. 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.

media.giphy.com

If I was arrested in Egypt prior to 2016, I wouldn't expect Donald Trump to help a brother out. But he's now theoretically the president of the United States. He has a constitutional obligation to act when the life of a writer for a major US newspaper is at risk. Or at least not to giggle and hug with the murderers afterward.

Trump is buddies with Egypt's dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He's president for life, and Trump likes the sound of that. The Times had to turn to reporter Declan Walsh's native Ireland for help. Within an hour, Irish diplomats swept in and escorted Walsh to safety before Egyptian forces could detain him. This would make a great vehicle for Liam Neeson as long as he doesn't beat up random black people in the middle of the film.

Early this year, Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick was held for hours in Cairo and later deported. This was apparently payback for revealing embarrassing information about the Egyptian government (probably that its dictator hangs out with Donald Trump). The Times protested Kirkpatrick's treatment to a senior official at the US Embassy in Cairo. He was unmoved.

"What did you expect would happen to him?" he said. "His reporting made the government look bad."

This is straight-up gangster talk. Kirkpatrick is a US citizen. He was exercising a basic American right. Journalists working abroad in dangerous locales are serving this country. Trump and his stooges show more disrespect for their service than any NFL player kneeling for the National Anthem. But Trump defines patriotism as submission. It's why he dismisses journalists as "enemies of the people."

Sulzberger observes that Trump's anti-media verbiage has caught on with bad actors across the globe. The Times researched the use of the term "fake news" abroad and found that "more than 50 prime ministers, presidents and other government leaders" are copping the president's style.

SULZBERGER: In Myanmar, the phrase is used to deny the existence of an entire people who are systematically targeted with violence to force them out of their country. "There is no such thing as Rohingya," a leader in Myanmar told The Times. "It is fake news."

We've been so cautious about violating Godwin's Law, but comparing Trump to former dictators is no longer the pressing issue. Now we can compare current dictators to the 45th president.

Trump still benefits from mainstream media's insistence on treating him like a mammal. Sulzberger says he's raised his concerns to Trump. He even gives him credit for listening "politely" and expressing "concern" -- an emotional state Trump is physically incapable of feeling for someone other than himself. Sulzberger is somehow stunned that President Lucy van Pelt "continues to escalate his anti-press rhetoric."

The president is an active threat to not just a free press but democracy itself. We're long past mildly chastising him in a speech to an Ivy League university. HIs callous actions should've been called out on page one of the Times. It's news that fit to print and loudly condemn.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.

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