Too believable to check: NYT considered giving Schumer an editorial veto over Tim Scott

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The New York Times denies this, but the allegation is so on-brand these days that it seems churlish to even question Bari Weiss’ recollection. In her podcast interview with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Weiss recalls an editorial meeting over a proposed column from Scott to promote his approach to police reform in the immediate aftermath of the George Floyd homicide in Minneapolis. It’s the type of column from leading politicians that the NYT and other major newspapers host without a second thought — at least usually.

In this instance, Weiss claims that the editors balked at publishing a black conservative Senator — at least not without the approval of his leading opponent in the upper chamber, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

A former New York Times opinion page editor alleges that her bosses refused to run an op-ed submitted by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) without first getting approval from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). …

“Well, here’s what happened,” Weiss told Scott. “And this is the part I’m not sure if you know. There was a discussion about the piece and whether or not we should run it.”

Weiss continued: “And one colleague, a more senior colleague said to a more junior colleague who was pushing for the piece, ‘Do you think the Republicans really care about minority rights?’”

“Wow,” Scott said.

“And the more junior colleagues said, ‘I think Tim Scott cares about minority rights’,” Weiss said.

“And then, and here’s the pretty shocking part. The more senior colleague said, ‘Let’s check with Sen. Schumer before we run it’,” Weiss said.

Does that seem shocking? Only to the extent that more senior editors apparently decided against the idea, and that the junior staffers didn’t revolt to demand its non-publication. After the Tom Cotton/James Bennet meltdown, which would have taken place in the same general time frame as this incident, nothing about the NYT’s editorial process seems shocking.

Neither does the decision not to publish the column, for that matter, although it should. Why would the NYT reject an opinion piece from Scott, especially at that time? As the only black Republican in the US Senate, Scott’s perspective on race relations and police reform are always relevant, and particularly so in the turbulent aftermath of the Floyd homicide. This is, after all, the same newspaper that published op-eds from Vladimir Putin and from Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani in that same year. What made Scott so out of bounds while the NYT welcomed those voices, other than political bias and editorial corruption at the Paper of So-Called Record?

Scott says that Weiss’ revelation disappointed him but didn’t surprise him. It doesn’t surprise me either, nor I suspect many of our readers. The NYT’s hostility to heterodox opinions, even from elected American officials while they offer space for foreign propaganda to tyrants and dictators, is too well-known and obvious to surprise anyone.

So when you see anything at the New York Times, just remember that the editors there may well have asked themselves WWCD: what would Chuck do?