And of all the thin-skinned beasts prowling the journalistic forest, few have a thinner epidermis than the boys and girls who work at the New York Times. On Monday, the Times’ immune system was activated to produce a Page One story to retaliate against pro-Trump activist Arthur Schwartz, an intimate of Donald Trump Jr. Schwartz, the Times reports, is part of a network of pro-Trumpies who have been digging for embarrassing dirt on journalists who work for Trump-critical media—CNN, the Washington Post, and, of course, the New York Times. According to the Times, the network shares its embarrassing discoveries—call them oppo research, if you’d like—with conservative political operations and then stands by to enjoy the drama.
As much as I would like to sympathize with my fellow journalists, it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to ask them to own or repudiate vile or impolitic things they might have stated in the past. Nor is it remotely unfair for the president’s supporters to demand that journalists, who are forever denouncing him as a racist (because he is), be held accountable for their bigoted speech, on Twitter or anywhere else. Journalists don’t deserve a get-out-of-bigotry-jail free card just because they’re journalists. If their past tweets, however ancient, undercut their current journalistic work or make them sound hypocritical, they can’t blame their diminished prestige on Trump’s allies. It’s like blaming a cop for writing you a ticket for speeding in a school zone.