NYT Executive Editor Denies Liberal Bias; Paper Has 'Very Cosmopolitan, Inclusive Outlook'

Jill Abramson of the New York Times denied that her newspaper has a liberal bias during a Monday interview with Marlo Thomas of Huffington Post. Abramson asserted that the Times "reflects a very cosmopolitan, inclusive outlook, which can strike some readers as liberal," and later claimed that "the news pages are not ideological."

The executive editor zeroed in on the issue of gun control as her example of how the New York Times is supposedly balanced: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

JILL ABRAMSON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: ...[W]hat I do to guard against opinion creeping too far into our news coverage is just watch it, and make sure that on certain stories, like – guns would be one – that – that a hundred percent of our stories aren't told from the perspective of, how could Americans be – you know, so connected to their guns? That this is – to recognize that this is a deep part of American society, and that we cover it – you know, from every angle.

James Grugnale of the website The Wrap spotlighted Thomas's interview of Abramson in a Tuesday item titled "NY Times Editor Fires Back at Conservative Critics: Our Gun Coverage Is Balanced." Grugnale quoted from the Times editor, and noted that "conservative watchdog blog NewsBusters found multiple instances of anti-gun editorializing in the Times' news stories." The writer include a link to a December 18, 2012 item by Clay Waters that noted three editorials that were "devoted to gun control, with the promise of more to come. The first compared anti-gun legislation to civil rights legislation."

Waters also pointed out how "calls for legislation also permeated the paper's weekend coverage of the tragedy. Saturday's front-page story by Mark Landler and Erica Goode tried to ignite the debate from paragraph one, 'Obama's Cautious Call for Action Sets Stage to Revive Gun Debate.'"

The New York Times has kept up its call for stricter gun control during the year-plus since Newtown massacre. After the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013, Emily Miller of the Washington Times corrected correspondent Michael S. Schmidt for claiming that the perpetrator was prevented from purchasing an AR-15 by Virginia state law, and underlined that Schmidt's article was an example of the "liberal media...[being] so obsessed with linking the Navy Yard shooter with the AR-15 rifle that it is making up false tales of Aaron Alexis trying to obtain one."

More recently, the liberal newspaper helped forward the pro-gun control cause by publishing a March 2014 op-ed by Boise State University Professor Greg Hampikian titled "When May I Shoot a Student?" NBC's Today helped promote Professor Hampikian's slam of a new law in Idaho that allows students and staff to carry guns on college campuses. Tamron Hall lamented the "controversial measure," and hyped the "eye-opening" op-ed in the Times.

The transcript of the relevant portion of the Marlo Thomas's interview of Jill Abramson:


MARLO THOMAS: This is from Joshua: the New York Times is frequently charged – mostly by conservatives – of being excessively liberal – or, at the very least, left-leaning-

JILL ABRAMSON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Right-

THOMAS: Do you agree with that; or do you do anything to counteract that? What is your response to people who say that?

ABRAMSON: Well, my response to that is that – you know, the New York Times is the New York Times; and I think it reflects a very cosmopolitan, inclusive outlook, which can strike some readers as liberal. I think that the news pages are not ideological. Opinion is the province of our editorial and op-ed pages, and the opinion section of our website.

And what I do to guard against opinion creeping too far into our news coverage is just watch it, and make sure that on certain stories, like – guns would be one – that – that a hundred percent of our stories aren't told from the perspective of, how could Americans be – you know, so connected to their guns? That this is – to recognize that this is a deep part of American society, and that we cover it – you know, from every angle. And that's the way to guard against-

THOMAS: Yeah, yeah – but you must get some, sort of, lobbying, too, from certain groups who would rather you did more stories, say, for guns. I mean, that would be in there-

ABRAMSON: Oh, there are people lobbying me all the time, Marlo. (Thomas laughs) You bet!

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center