The publisher of The New York Times released a statement regarding his recent off-the-record meeting with President Donald Trump after Trump tweeted about the meeting Sunday morning.
By discussing publicly the contents of their conversation, the president’s tweet retroactively put the meeting on the record, the Times said, and a Times spokeswoman told reporters that the newspaper would release publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s “detailed notes.” But those notes have not materialized, and a statement from Sulzberger said nothing at all about what the president had to say in the meeting.
“Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger,” Trump tweeted at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning. “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”
Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.” Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
Around 11:00 a.m. Sunday Sulzberger released a statement of his own.
While Trump’s tweet Sunday morning painted Sulzberger as an ally in Trump’s war against “fake news,” Sulzberger is telling a much different story about the meeting, saying in his statement that he accepted the meeting to “raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”
“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” Sulzberger said in the release. “I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.'”
NEW: Statement from NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger about his meeting with POTUS. "My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president's deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric…" pic.twitter.com/6xdhAjczmp
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 29, 2018
Sulzberger said he spoke to the president about the way his inflammatory language is contributing to the rise in threats of violence against journalists, particularly those working abroad. He said he was not asking the president to soften his attacks on the Times in particular but to reconsider his broader attacks on the free press.
As of the time of publication, though, the Times has offered no information about anything Trump said during the meeting, information that would be highly pertinent to the Times’ readers and reporters. The statement also provided no direct quotes from Sulzberger or Times editorial page editor James Bennet, who was also present in the meeting. Instead, the statement relies exclusively on Sulzberger’s own characterization of the conversation.
Sulzberger took over as the paper’s publisher earlier this year, replacing his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. The White House confirmed to CNN Sunday that the meeting with Sulzberger took place.
What Trump told them remains unknown.