The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


The New York Times Continues to Misreport the Trump Executive Order on Antisemitism

Once can be an honest mistake; now it looks intentional


The Times caused a freakout yesterday when it both misleadingly reported that the Trump administration was poised to issue an executive order "redefining Judaism as a nationality," and failed to provide any context, including the fact that both the Bush II and Obama administrations had used the same reasoning as the Trump executive order, to wit: Jews are covered by Title VI's prohibition on race and national-origin discrimination to the extent that such discrimination is based not on hostility to Jews as a religion, but to Jews as an ethnic group with perceived common characteristics. Its initial report also failed to note that the liberal antisemitism watchdog group, the ADL, which is no friend of the Trump administration and has been highly–and at times unfairly, as when its officials falsely blamed Trump for inspiring a rash of bomb threat hoaxes in 2017–critical of Trump with regard to antisemitism, supports the executive order.

After causing the freakout, the Times improved but didn't really correct its piece, and was pilloried on Twitter, including by liberals, for its bad reporting.

Unfortunately, this didn't dissuade the Times, which tonight posted a hit piece on Ken Marcus, head of the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, for his role in the executive order. (Conflict of interest watch: I know and like Ken.) You will not learn from this piece that the executive order originated in language from a bill sponsored by Democrats, nor that it has direct antecedents in Obama and Bush II administration policy. Instead, the reporter, Erica Green, asserts that Marcus "has asserted a Jewish 'national origin' by fiat," as if it didn't reflect policy established in the Bush administration and adhered to by the Obama administration.

Either Ms. Green didn't bother to inquire about the history of the relevant Title VI controversy, which makes her incompetent, or she did, and it makes her dishonest. Either way, it's further evidence that anyone who wants objective, competent news reporting about the Trump administration can't look to the Times.