During a lengthy Fox News interview on Wednesday morning, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson repeatedly frustrated America’s Newsroom anchors Sandra Smith and Jon Scott as she rebuffed their attempts to get her to criticize the paper’s coverage of President Donald Trump.
In recent days, Fox News has been laser-focused on a transcript of the newspaper’s recent town-hall meeting, claiming it showed current Times executive editor Dean Baquet admitting the paper switched narratives from the Russia investigation to racism in an effort to take out the president.
Abramson, who has not been shy in her criticism of the paper she once ran, began the segment by immediately praising Baquet as “really doing a brilliant job” under the circumstances of Trump’s presidency.
Noting that Baquet is “criticized all the time by you at Fox News and by conservatives for being way too hard on Trump and being biased” against him, Abramson went on to say how impressed she was with Baquet for explaining to the staff that their job was to be “independent and to hold power accountable.”
“Essentially he told reporters and staffers that we started trying to cover the Trump and Russia collusion narrative and that has kind of gone away,” Scott countered. “So now we are going to cover President Trump as a racist. Is that essentially what he says, would you agree with that?”
The ex-Times editor did not, in fact, agree with that.
“No, I think you mischaracterized what he said,” she replied. “What he was explaining was that the paper had been set up to cover a deep investigative story out of Washington.”
Abramson added, “And now they were pivoting to an election where the job of The New York Times is to be in the country figuring out how people feel and what they think. It was not telling people get ready to cover a racist administration. That was a complete mischaracterization of what he was saying. I read that transcript twice.”
Smith, meanwhile, tried a different tack, reading a piece of the transcript in which Baquet says they need to “regroup” following their coverage of the Russian investigation while framing it within conservative criticism.
“You heard some members of Congress, including Ted Cruz and others, speaking out pretty aggressively about that revealing an intentional shift in coverage from the Russia narrative to now race in covering the president, is that fair?” Smith asked.
“I think that’s an overstatement,” Abramson responded. “If you look at the totality of what Dean said, he was urging his staff to make a pivot to cover out in the country in all America, not just in Washington, but how people are feeling to understand deeply why they elected Donald Trump in 2016 and why they may possibly do so again in 2020.”
Eventually, the Fox anchors shifted course and tried to get Abramson to blast the Times for changing a headline earlier this month, once again coming up empty as the former editor said the current editorial staff made the right judgment in making the alteration.
As the interview came to an end, Smith threw up one final Hail Mary.
“I know your book writes about old-school journalism and the changing media landscape and what’s missing from journalism today,” the anchor said. “I will just ask you, does The New York Times fairly cover the news? Does The New York Times fairly cover President Trump?”
“I think it does fairly cover President Trump, who makes it very difficult to cover him,” Abramson answered, adding that it is “extremely difficult” to cover a president who has reportedly told more than 10,000 lies and falsehoods since entering office.