Staffers at The New York Times are alarmed and dismayed by the publication of an anti-Semitic cartoon – and by the newspaper’s initial response.
They want to know what readers want to know: How did this get printed?
Now even President Trump is weighing in.
But this all started on Thursday when the international edition of The New York Times ran an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog on a leash held by a blind President Trump. The image was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda.
The international edition is only available outside the United States, so most people at The Times’ New York City headquarters knew nothing about it until they read about it in an editor’s note published on Saturday.
In the editor’s note, the Times admitted that the cartoon was “offensive,” and that “it was an error in judgment to publish it,” but didn’t go into any detail about what went wrong.
Some news outlets inaccurately called the note an “apology,” which led people to wonder why The Times hadn’t actually apologized.
The controversy snowballed on social media into Sunday morning. CNN’s Jake Tapper said on “State of the Union” that the cartoon “could just have easily appeared in ISIS or neo-Nazi propaganda.”
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway – whose boss regularly assails The Times – told Tapper “I’m very concerned” that the paper “allowed the distribution” of the cartoon.
According to sources at the newspaper, who spoke on condition of anonymity, staffers were alarmed to see that the image was published — and dismayed that the initial editor’s note was so feeble. They wanted a more detailed explanation.
Finally on Sunday afternoon, the Times issued a statement saying “we are deeply sorry” for the cartoon, and “we are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again.”
The NYT said the decision to run the syndicated cartoon was made by a single editor working without adequate oversight. “The matter remains under review, and we are evaluating our internal processes and training,” the statement said. “We anticipate significant changes.”
The paper has not identified the editor.
In its own story about the scandal, The Times reported that “the cartoon was drawn by the Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes and originally published by Expresso, a newspaper in Lisbon. It was then picked up by CartoonArts International, a syndicate for cartoons from around the world… An editor from The Times’s Opinion section downloaded Mr. Antunes’s cartoon from the syndicate and made the decision to publish it.”
That’s the process that is now under review, according to the newspaper.
But some of the paper’s critics say there is a deeper problem here.
Bret Stephens, one of The Times’ op-ed columnists, wrote about it in Monday’s print edition. “The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t,” Stephens wrote. “The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism — and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.”
Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at National Review, credited Stephens for writing the piece and The Times for publishing it. “I wonder how many other publications would do such a thing: allow one of its own to wallop it, in its own pages,” he tweeted.
The tweets kept coming on Monday, when the president equivocated anti-Semitism with the Times’ coverage of his presidency.
“The New York Times has apologized for the terrible Anti-Semitic Cartoon, but they haven’t apologized to me for this or all of the Fake and Corrupt news they print on a daily basis,” he wrote.