Wasting untold time and energy, New York Times newsroom leaders continue to struggle with the not-very-difficult question of whether they ought to refer to Donald Trump as a racist. More than four years after Trump entered our national political conversation by announcing his candidacy for president, the Times still can't figure out if the paper should accurately label him for his obviously racist behavior.
Likely terrified of sparking a right-wing media backlash, journalists continue to tiptoe around Trump's open embrace of hate speech and his deeply racist leanings.
Top editors at the Times recently sent a memo to department heads offering guidance on the topic. “It’s about navigating through calling things what they are, not getting into the kind of name-calling that seems to pervade political debate,” one anonymous Times editor told Vanity Fair. “That’s a little bit of the tension. We’re in a real name-calling culture. We like to stay above the fray, yet we also like to avoid excessive euphemisms, so the attempt here is to say: Let’s not use labels so much as to describe things as they are.”
This came after Times executive editor Dean Baquet last week stressed that the paper just can't tell if Trump's a racist. “I don’t know. I think Donald Trump says racially divisive things. I think that’s a little bit different. I’m not in his head enough to know whether he says them because he wants to stoke his base,” the editor told The Guardian.
Note that that's the same illogical defense the paper uses for not calling Trump a liar: Reporters and editors aren't in his head, so they can’t tell for sure. But it’s been documented that Trump has told certain lies more than 60-70 different times, which means there's zero doubt that he knows he’s telling boldfaced lies. Still, the confused Times just can’t make a tough call. Just like the paper can't make a tough call on Trump's misogyny.
There's “no question Donald Trump has trouble with women,” according to Baquet, who nonetheless oversees a newspaper that won't call him a sexist in its news pages.
That mind-reading defense is a convenient cop-out for the Times. But other publications and news agencies aren’t as reserved.