Readers across America are threatening to cancel their New York Times subscriptions.
The #CancelNYT hashtag emerged Tuesday morning after readers took offense to the paper’s Aug. 6 front-page headline: “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism.”
Tomorrow’s @nytimes tonight: @realDonaldTrump urges unity vs. racism and condemns “slaughters,” but says little about gun control; China employs currency in trade feud, jolting markets. #nytimes pic.twitter.com/krrVxlFUWf— Tom Jolly (@TomJolly) August 6, 2019
The headline appeared to frame aftermath of last weekend’s mass shootings with racists on one side and President Donald Trump on another. Some Twitter users saw this as the latest in a pattern of normalizing Trump’s policies and white supremacist sympathies in America’s paper of record.
Readers found the headline particularly offensive given the connections between the white supremacist motivations of the El Paso shooter and President Trump’s rhetoric around immigration. The alleged shooter, a 21-year-old white man, opened fire on an El Paso Walmart largely frequented by Mexican-Americans. He is charged with the murder of 22 people.
The alleged assailant left behind a manifesto claiming his actions were racially motivated. Specifically, the shooter is thought to subscribe to the racist “Great Replacement” theory that Fox News has promoted and President Trump has implied he agrees with. Language in the document is similar to some of Trump’s talking points around immigration. Specifically, the alleged shooter warned of a “Hispanic invasion,” “open borders,” and “free healthcare for illegals.”
For the day’s second edition, the New York Times headline was changed to “Trump Assails Hate But Not Guns.”
As far as many readers were concerned, the damage was done, and the change was too little too late. #CancelNYT remained a top trending topic on Twitter throughout the morning as numerous prominent politicians and journalists railed against the headline.
Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by – and often relies upon – the cowardice of mainstream institutions. https://t.co/ynjgtT66yI— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 6, 2019
NYT journalism on specific stuff is generally world-class. their columnists (with a couple important exceptions) are mediocre to atrocious. and their political "reporters" are constantly pulling this shit https://t.co/CXGOKNMVX7— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) August 6, 2019
This is not the first time that the New York Times has drawn criticism from the left in the age of Trump. Some say their reporting normalizes white supremacists and offers outsized attention to white male Trump supporters. Opinion columnists Bari Weiss, Bret Stephens, and Ross Douthat have been directly charged with laundering far-right ideology into the opinion pages of the newspaper.
Users involved in more center-left #resistance Twitter also often blame the Times‘ coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails for her general election loss.
Some journalists pushed back against the hashtag, claiming that this was an isolated incident or pointing out the Times is not the only paper to struggle with covering Trump.
Canceling your New York Times subscription over a bad headline is like canceling your electric service because the lights flickered one time.— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) August 6, 2019
The language of reporting on Trump, and whether to call his comments “lies” or “racist” has been a conversation since before his inauguration. Many journalists feel that the standards and practices of American journalism prior to this administration simply don’t work under the Trump presidency.
Regardless of what adjustments the Times makes in the aftermath of this backlash, how the media covers President Trump will likely remain a hot topic until he leaves the Oval Office.
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