Despite decades of resounding evidence to the contrary, the New York Times ran a front-page story on Tuesday with a headline inexplicably stating that “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.”
And while the article was referring to the president’s insincere and forced/obligatory speech condemning a weekend of mass shootings that sure seemed to be inspired by his hateful and racist rhetoric — a speech that came way too late, in many people’s opinions — Twitter users sounded off in a major way after catching a glimpse of the headline on social media before the paper was printed. It all resulted in the hashtag “#CancelNYT” being the top trending topic on Tuesday morning and into the afternoon.
The backlash was apparently so intense that the Times succumbed to the pressure and changed the controversial headline. But that still didn’t please everyone.
Obviously, the Times has more than a century’s worth of stellar newsgathering and reporting, but this particular story — if anyone made it past the headline — was especially jarring because the country was less than two weeks removed from Trump’s racist attacks on powerful politicians of color, especially Black ones.
For instance, after he told four Congresswomen of color to “go back” to the countries they came from (nevermind that three of them were born in the U.S. and all are American citizens…), a gun shop in North Carolina erected a billboard with the women’s pictures, something that was widely seen as encouraging violence against them. Trump would go on to toss racist jeers at Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and the mostly Black people of Baltimore. Days later Cummings’ home was broken into.
So for the Times to suggest that Trump was promoting unity was a farce to many who cited these recent and many other examples of the president’s documented history of racism.
However, a closer look at the Times’ track record on race in recent years shows the old Gray Lady may need to tweak one or more of its editing processes.
Take, for instance, when the Times ran an ill-advised profile about a Nazi sympathizer titled “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” and published in November of 2017. It suggested many in the alt-right movement “want their extremist views to be normalized.” Times editor Marc Lacey subsequently released a statement apologizing for the article, which offended many people.
“We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,” he said. “We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.”
Less than a year later, the Times followed up that gem by lending credence to the racist stereotype that all Black people look alike when it misidentified one dark-skinned Black woman for another in a photo caption. A photo that showed Angela Bassett on stage at the Emmys somehow confused the Times into believing the Academy Award-nominated actress was her polar opposite, All-American villain Omarosa Manigault-Newman. With heightened concern about diversity in American newsrooms, this glaring error didn’t help matters.
Two months later, the Times was at it again when it refused to call then-Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis racist after the Republican’s series of racist comments, racist ads and even robocalls funded by white supremacists before the 2018 midterm election in which he would defeat former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum under controversial circumstances.
Yet and still, despite all of the above and more that hasn’t been mentioned here, the Times ran a political analysis piece about DeSantis that was topped with the following headline: “Trump Favorite in Florida Struggles To Rise After Racial Stumbles.”