The New York Times has long been held up as a beacon of authority in the journalism world. Through the years, the paper has tried to establish itself as neutral despite often being at the centre of controversies for giving platforms to members of alt-right, as well as publishing an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton calling for Trump to bring in the military to deal with Black Lives Matter protesters. This spurred even more concern when Trump did indeed bring in the troops. But after trying to give voices to “both sides,” the editors have broken tradition and penned a special statement on Trump less than three weeks before the US election.
In an op-ed titled “End Our National Crisis” released by the editorial board of the New York Times today, the publishing powerhouse makes their case against re-electing Donald Trump, stating that the potential of Trump’s win “poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II.”
“Mr Trump’s ruinous tenure already has gravely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He has abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the norms that have bound the nation together for generations. He has subsumed the public interest to the profitability of his business and political interests. He has shown a breathtaking disregard for the lives and liberties of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he holds,” the op-ed states. It also references its previous coverage of his divisive rhetoric, racism and xenophobia. “Nov. 3 can be a turning point. This is an election about the country’s future, and what path its citizens wish to choose.”
While it breaks from former practices, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and it's clear that there’s no room for a paper as influential as the Times to do anything but take a strong stance against fascism. In the op-ed, the editors note the extremity of the situation, referencing Trump’s refusal to a peaceful transfer of power — something no modern predecessor has refused to commit to. In addition to outlining the corruption of the administration, the editors concurred that this plea was necessary, given that the country realistically cannot survive four more years of a Trump presidency.
The Times acknowledges that other presidents — like Nixon, Reagan, and Bush — also caused harm, but the op-ed states that Trump “has outstripped decades of presidential wrongdoing in a single term.” Alongside the editorial is a whole section devoted to essays and evidence pointing to Trump’s negligence with public health during the coronavirus pandemic, his celebrations of violence, his lack of action on climate change, and more.
In response to this, angered Republicans online have invoked the president's favourite phrase: "The Failing New York Times" and called it biased. Other reactions online have run the gamut from shock at such a definitive push against Trump, to calls of hypocrisy that reference the paper’s constant coverage of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal.
“I reaalllllly want the NYT editorial board to call out the news side for their contributions to making this presidency happen,” tweeted activist and writer Chanda Prescot-Weinstein. Though many are dissatisfied given the newspaper's previous coverage, a former candidate for Congress, Kyle Tisdel, tweeted praise for the piece, saying, "Many of us have grown numb to the daily onslaught of lies, corruption and outrageousness. This article can serve as a reminder. Vote. But let's also do what we can to motivate our family, friends, and neighbours to reclaim our nation from this demagoguery."
Though Trump will surely fight back against the op-ed's statement that he’s a “racist demagogue” and call it all fake news, Trump is not the audience whose attention the editors are aiming to clinch: This was clearly written for the millions of people who might still make a difference — a hope that journalism still has sway over voters who can save the US, and a reminder that damage can still be undone.