The sun peaks over the New York Times Building in New York on August 14, 2013.
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

In his campaign against the NYT, Trump forgets how journalism works

Early this morning, with much of the world’s attention focused on the White House’s abandoned mission against Iran, Donald Trump decided it was a good time to go on the attack … against the New York Times.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI. This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?

“ ‘This Russia Collusion Hoax was perpetrated in part by people inside the government, and in part by a compliant (Fake News) media.’ Mollie Hemingway. @TuckerCarlson @foxandfriends The facts are starting to pour out. Stay tuned!”

As Trump conspiracy theories go, this one was a little more confusing than most. The New York Times – a newspaper the president has repeatedly accused of “treason” – gave the FBI false information? Huh?

Apparently, Trump and Fox News were excited about this report in the conservative Washington Examiner, which was published yesterday, and which said, “A New York Times reporter fed information about Jared Kushner meeting with Russians to the FBI, newly released emails show.”

That’s not quite what happened. In March 2017, the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt reached out to an official in the FBI’s public-affairs office about the bureau’s possible scrutiny of Jared Kushner as part of the investigation into the Russia scandal.

The newspaper ran its report on this soon after.

As a rule, deciphering Trump’s media conspiracy theories is inherently frustrating, but the biggest problem with this one is that it’s completely bonkers.

According to the president, the New York Times told the FBI about an FBI investigation. That doesn’t make any sense. What’s more, Trump would have us believe the newspaper did this in secret – this has “just” been “revealed,” the president claimed this morning – only to soon after publish a report, literally on its front page.

This is obviously quite foolish, even by the low standards of his conspiracy theories, but it may also offer a worthwhile peek into Trump’s understanding of the news-gathering process.

In the president’s mind, when a reporter working on a story about the FBI reaches out to the FBI’s public-affairs office, this should be seen as possible evidence of something nefarious.

Indeed, according to Trump’s odd tweets, the New York Times’ reporting process may not have even been “legal.”

Maybe the president is furious with news organizations because he doesn’t quite understand what journalism is?

Conspiracy Theories and Donald Trump

In his campaign against the NYT, Trump forgets how journalism works