by Carolyn Gevinski ’22, Contributing Writer
When I came to my first meeting for the Opinion section of The Spectator, I was enthralled with the abundance of literary freedom I was offered. Despite this freedom, there was one crucial rule that my editors emphasized: I cannot use anonymous quotes in my articles. In using an anonymous testimony, a newspaper throws credibility out the window and relies on its readers to come to conclusions riddled with doubt and suspicion. If a college newspaper follows this philosophy then one would think that a leading national newspaper like The New York Times should as well.
On Wednesday Sept. 5th, however, The Times published an op-ed titled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”, written by an “anonymous” contributor. The Times took care to include a disclaimer stating that the piece was published anonymously “at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized at its exposure.”
The anonymous aspect of the op-ed and the controversies it has triggered can be quick to cloud the content of the article itself. The author believes that the President’s instability and erratic behavior leads to inappropriate decisions that do not conform with true conservative values.
He or she uses the example of a foreign policy that is evidently split between the public statements the President makes and the actions that the rest of the administration supports. The author states that there is a resistance within the Trump Administration that collaborates to work “diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
A quote from an unnamed senior official is included: “There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next.” The article is wrapped up with advice to the national public to unite “through our
shared values and love of this great nation.”
President Trump, characteristically, failed to be cogent in his re-
sponse to the op-ed. In fact, one could say that he proved the article’s accuracy in a predictable outburst, blasting The New York Times and demanding the release of the author’s identity.
“Does the so called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, The Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to the government at once!”, the president tweeted hours after the article was published.
In accordance with the anonymous author’s statement that “President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators,” the President seems to show no care for The Times’ and the author’s First Amendment rights. “Trump actually called for The New York Times to turn over their source to the government. Is he new to this country? That’s not how a free press works!”, exclaimed journalist Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Prime Time”, his weeknight show on CNN.
This is not the first time that anonymous information has caused a political explosion in the White House. The op-ed rings of the “Deep Throat” incident, in which an anonymous source leaked information to The Washington Post that helped take down President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
Rather than simply feeding information to The New York Times, however, the anonymous author wrote his or her own detailed essay and exposed it to the world. The Times was only the messenger.
The expression “don’t shoot the messenger” would be an advisable option for President Trump. The President frequently attempts to divert public attention away from a problem by throwing a temper tantrum. In this case, his outburst is directed at the self-titled “Failing New York Times.” His unfounded claims that The Times would cease to exist if Donald Trump was no longer the president contradict the long establishment of a paper that has existed since 1851.
While this could be a strange, but intended diversion strategy, it is more characteristic of a childish outburst. Although the idea of an anonymous essay is likely to make any journalist squirm uncomfortably, The New York Times weighed the potential consequences before publishing the op-ed. In fact, The Times came out with a follow-up article addressing their reasoning behind publishing the anonymous work.
The article reads: “In our view, this Op-Ed offered a significant first-person perspective we haven’t presented to our readers before: that of a conservative explaining why they felt that even if working for the Trump administration meant compromising some principles, it ultimately served the country if they could achieve some of the President’s policy objectives while helping resist some of his worst impulses.”
The decision seems to have been thought through meticulously so as to incorporate a new political perspective. The article is controversial, but offers a reassuring voice that much of the American public has been yearning to hear.
There is no doubt in my mind that, by publishing the anonymous op-ed, The New York Times was doing its duty as journalists in 2018 America.