Preposterous! New York Times Opinion Editor Denies They’re Progressives or Partisans

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In a surprisingly rigorous (but not hostile) interview on Friday’s Amanpour & Co. on PBS (and CNN), New York Times opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury bizarrely claimed it’s unfair to categorize them as a “progressive organization.”

As if you can’t simply read them and figure it out? 

PBS co-host Walter Isaacson had a much firmer set of questions than Softball Stelter’s Kingsbury interview on May 2. He brought up the Times spiking a Bret Stephens column about the firing of longtime reporter Donald McNeil, and he asked about the Tom Cotton column controversy.

Isaacson didn’t remind viewers opinion editor James Bennet was fired over it after an internal ideological revolt, and Kingsbury tried to claim Cotton’s column had accuracy problems: 

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WALTER ISAACSON: You talk about providing opinions that your readers may not agree with, you don’t agree with….But there seems to be some thought that you’re constrained at times for how far you can go, especially to the right after Senator Tom Cotton wrote an editorial that caused your predecessor to have to step down. I know those were complicated situations, but do you feel that The New York Times is constrained especially when it comes to very concerned and populist voices?

KATHLEEN KINGSBURY: We are constrained in the fact that we don’t print things that are inaccurate. And sometimes some of the voices on to the right are making claims that we simply can’t fact-check. That said, I really don’t feel constrained. I mean, we have, in our report, almost a daily basis a wide range of voices and viewpoints. We are trying very hard to serve as wide an audience as we can.

But the funniest part was Kingsbury trying to deny they were progressives or Democrats, as if their endorsements — just for starters! — establish the page as progressive. She didn’t list their Republican endorsements.

ISAACSON: Your audience is probably, let me make a sweeping generalization, more on the progressive or left or central left of the spectrum when it comes to reading New York Times editorials. And historically, The New York Times has been a voice somewhat of the left or center left or progressivism. And even in the argument, I notice so many of the things tend to be arguments like are Republicans driving democracy into a ditch type argument, which seem to come from a particular perspective.

Does that make sense? Is that something you would just say, yes, we do have a general world viewpoint and we’re proud of it, or is it something that you feel should be righted or changed?

KINGSBURY: Interesting. One of my earliest memories is having a show and tell preschool about going to the voting booth and putting the lever for Ronald Reagan. I think — I share that story because I think that it creates a perception that some people will feel confirms many of the things that they think about me. And then, you know, just as the fact that I won a Pulitzer Prize for a series that called for a $15 minimum wage and better treatment for immigrant workers.

I’d say that story because it’s really irrelevant what my personal worldview is or even what the section’s worldview is. At the end of the day, if we want a healthy thriving democracy, people need to encounter views that they both agree with and disagree with. I don’t think that it’s entirely fair to suggest that we are a progressive organization, and I would push back on that. We are not representative of any political parties, especially. We are running viewpoints.

For instance, last summer, we ran this very thoughtful piece by Jeffrey Rosen, who you’ll remember was the deputy attorney general for Donald Trump, on why we needed the death penalty. And we are trying to do that every day. I can give you countless examples from the last month of viewpoints that run counter to the idea that we are running progressive pieces exclusively.

Just in the last week, Kingsbury’s Deputy Opinion Editor wrote about lecturing conservatives in a focus group that Black Lives Matter isn’t a self-described Marxist group, and her columnist David Brooks ran a gushy promotional interview with President Biden. But sure, try and deny the obvious! 

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