NY Times publisher defends hiring of conservative columnist Bret Stephens


Bret Stephens at alumni weekend at the University of Chicago, June 7, 2014. (Jason Smith)

(JTA) — The publisher of The New York Times sent a personal letter to subscribers who canceled over the newspaper’s hiring of conservative columnist Bret Stephens.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. sent the email on Friday afternoon to subscribers who specifically mentioned Stephens as their reason for canceling their subscription, Politico reported, after obtaining a copy.

Stephens, who is Jewish, came to the Times after serving as the foreign affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, at 28 he became editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post in 2002. He is a Pulitzer Prize laureate and an assertive defender of Israel and its current government’s policies. Stephens is also a fierce critic of President Donald Trump.

“Our customer care team shared with me that your reason for unsubscribing from The New York Times included our decision to hire Bret Stephens as an Opinion columnist. I wanted to provide a bit more context,” the email said, according to Politico.

Stephens has come under fire for questioning the theory of climate change and its dangers, as well as for calling anti-Semitism the “disease of the Arab mind” and “the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss.”

Sulzberger said in his letter to subscribers that the newsroom functions separately from the opinion department where Stephens works and that his columns will not inform the newsroom. He also listed several of the Times articles about climate change and a recent issue of the Sunday magazine dedicated to the climate’s future, according to Politico.

“This journalism is unrivaled in its sophistication and imagination,” he wrote. “The support of our subscribers is what allows us to pursue such ambitious stories all over the globe.

“Meanwhile, The Times’ Opinion pages remain an independent and unblinking forum for debate from a wide range of viewpoints among open-minded, informed writers and readers. I don’t think, in these polarizing and partisan times, there’s anything quite like it in American journalism.”

A New York Times spokesman told Politico that fewer than 6 percent of subscribers who canceled since Stephens was hired in April cited him as the reason for the cancellation.

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