"Translation: We at 'the paper of record' decided to put our thirst for continued access to the architect of a barbaric program separating children from their parents ahead of the public's right to have the fullest possible picture of that program and the twisted mind behind it." —Naomi Klein
Although far-right activist-turned-White House policy adviser Stephen Miller has been a chief architect of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy and its forcible separation of families, he has remained largely behind the scenes as outrage has grown over the practice—and on Tuesday, with help from the New York Times, the White House kept it that way.
After conducting an on-the-record interview with Miller for an article that appeared in the New York Times last week about the family separation policy, the Times submitted to a White House request to not include audio from the interview in its popular news podcast "The Daily."
The New York Times asks Stephen Miller, architect of the most vile supremacist policies of this administration, for approval on their editorial output. Pathetic. https://t.co/g3I3WxboJE
— Anil Dash (@anildash) June 19, 2018
Reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis, who had interviewed Miller for the article, explained before describing some of Miller's comments to "Daily" host Michael Barano:
When I went into the West Wing to interview Stephen Miller with Michael Shear, my colleague here at the Times, the purpose was we were doing a big deep dive story on this family separation practice that's broken out all over the country. And we didn't talk about any sort of alternative uses for the interview. And when they found out that his voice was actually going to be on a podcast discussing it, they were not happy about this. So, they asked us not to use it.
Many journalists and media critics viewed the newspaper's cooperation with the White House as a violation of political outlets' supposed purpose—to give the public a full understanding of the government and its policies.
This is just bullshit. Miller is orchestrating a systematic, criminal, human rights abusing, child abuse operation. Let the public hear his sick rationalization to understand how utterly evil this is. https://t.co/7z8WQUSFe0
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) June 19, 2018
So New York Times has big, newsworthy interview with Stephen Miller. Story posts last week. The White House knows there is a podcast called The Daily. Miller knows he is speaking into a microphone. But yesterday WH says, don’t use audio. And then NYT says... okay, never mind?
— Robert Mentzer (@robertmentzer) June 19, 2018
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Others argued that while Davis relayed Miller's comments on the podcast, Barbano's interview with her was no substitute for hearing Miller describe, in his own words, why he feels it's acceptable for the Homeland Security Department to separate families—in some cases, reportedly deceiving parents and then informing them that their children have been taken away.
In the podcast itself, @juliehdavis did indeed quote Miller; they just didn't use Miller's own voice, which would have enhanced the production quite a bit.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) June 19, 2018
Since Davis and Shear's interview with Miller was on the record, the reporters technically had permission to use the content of their discussion with the senior policy adviser in the Times' reporting—not necessarily just in the article they were writing. The Associated Press defines the phrase "on the record" as denoting that "the information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name."
In a statement, the Times said the reporters had not made clear to the White House that Miller's audio could be used in "The Daily."
"While Miller's comments were on the record, we realized that the ground rules for the original interview were not clear, and so we made a decision not to run the audio," read the statement from the paper's communications department.
Critics including author Naomi Klein refused to accept the newspaper's excuse—accusing the Times of being more concerned with its access to the White House than giving a full accounting of what it learns from its interactions with Trump administration sources.
Translation: We at "the paper of record" decided to put our thirst for continued access to the architect of a barbaric program separating children from their parents ahead of the public's right to have the fullest possible picture of that program and the twisted mind behind it. https://t.co/Mxk8mVCiIu
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) June 19, 2018