NYT silent on controversy, discipline reporter who called Trump supporters ‘enemies’

New York Times executives have declined to discipline or fire a reporter who referred to supporters of former President Donald Trump as “enemies of the people,” though the paper did fire a freelance editor for a tweet supportive of President Joe Biden earlier this year.

On Tuesday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select Jan. 6 committee opened with its first hearings featuring four Capitol and DC Metro police officers, Katie Benner, whose beat for the Times is the Justice Department, wrote in since-deleted tweets that in order for the federal government to “combat” ongoing domestic threats to national security, it will be a necessity to target the former president’s supporters.

“Today’s #January6thSelectCommittee underscores America’s current, essential natsec dilemma: Work to combat legitimate national security threats now entails calling a politician’s supporters enemies of the state,” one tweet read, according to published reports.

“As Americans, we believe that state power should not be used to work against a political figure or a political party. But what happens if a politician seems to threaten the state? If the politician continues to do so out of office and his entire party supports that threat?” she asked, reports said.

She later deleted her tweets, writing in a post, “I deleted unclearly worded tweets regarding the Jan 6. committee hearing.”

But the newspaper hasn’t mentioned the controversy or taken any disciplinary action, Fox News reported.

Even though Benner deleted her initial tweets, her comments seem to be in direct contravention of the newspaper’s editorial standards governing, among other actions, posts online.

“In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation,” the editorial guidelines state.

“Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively,” the guidelines add.

Fox News noted, “Benner’s tweets appear to brazenly violate the Times’ guidance, including the ‘must not express partisan opinions,’ ‘promote political views’ and ‘make offensive comments’ clauses.”

Since the tweets were posted and then removed, however, Benner’s bylines have continued to appear without interruption, including four stories that featured one about how the Department of Justice ordered the Treasury Department to hand over several years’ worth of former President Donald Trump’s taxes.

Fox News reported that the paper did not respond to requests for comment as to whether Benner was disciplined in any way or whether officials believe she posted in violation of the Times’ social media policies.

But in January, the Times dismissed freelance editor Lauren Wolfe after she tweeted about how excited she was when then-President-elect Joe Biden arrived by plane at Joint Base Andrews before he was inaugurated.

“Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills,” she wrote.

Later she posted, “The pettiness of the Trump admin not sending a military plane to bring him to D.C. as is tradition is mortifying. Childish.”

But that claim was false; the Times fact-checked it, in fact, and found that Team Biden had refused the Trump administration’s offer of military transport and instead chose a commercial flight.

But the Times went on to note that Wolfe wasn’t fired over that single incident, but rather after a series of similar posts after being repeatedly warned to stop making them.

To her credit, Wolfe noted in a Substack piece earlier this month that she’s biased.

“I’m a biased journalist and I’m okay with that,” she wrote.

Jon Dougherty

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