In the right-wing media ecosystem, monstrous scandals are constantly said to be roiling the New York Times, threatening to destroy the paper from within. In reality, most of these supposed scandals never escape the fever swamp, because there's nothing to them. That doesn’t seem to be true of the latest one, about which the Times, curiously, has literally nothing to say.
Earlier this week, Project Veritas published videos appearing to show Matthew Rosenberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter, mocking colleagues. “Whenever there’s an eruption in our newsroom,” he said, for example, “from younger Black staffers, [top Times editor] Dean [Baquet]’s able to say, like, ‘‘Yo, when I worked in the newsroom, colleagues might use the fucking N-word at me. So, like, back down.’”
Among other things, he also appeared to dismiss the idea that reporters suffered trauma while covering the January 6 riots.
“It’s not the kind of place I can tell someone to man up, but I kind of want to be, like, ‘Dude, come on, like, you were not in any danger,’” Rosenberg, who covered the riot himself, said in the video, in which he appeared to be talking to a young woman. (Reporters who covered the riots have discussed the panic and terror they felt while caught in the rampaging mob.) He described reporters who were in the Capitol during the riot as “These fucking little dweebs who keep going on about their trauma—I’m like, ‘Shut the fuck up,’” and described two of his colleagues who were reporting on the riot as “fucking bitches.”
According to Politico, at a Thursday lunch in the Times’ Washington bureau, reporters pressed the paper’s top editor, Dean Baquet, about the Veritas report.
“Baquet,” Politico reported, citing Times staffers, “responded by criticizing Rosenberg for being careless and stupid. But he said that Project Veritas is trying to ‘make our heads explode’ and divide the Times, and that they should not play into the group’s hands.”
Not playing into the hands of Project Veritas—by, for example, trashing colleagues to a random person you don’t know well who seems extremely interested in your boring job and brings up Veritas honcho James O’Keeffe unprompted—is a good idea. The outfit has in the past been accused of packaging material deceptively; as the Times—which Veritas is suing for defamation, which probably goes some way to explaining why staffers don’t want to talk about this—has reported, one video from 2020 purporting to show that Representative Ilhan Omar’s campaign conducted ballot fraud was, according to researchers, “probably part of a coordinated disinformation effort.”
Still, the Rosenberg video appears not to just show the reporter trashing his colleagues, but undercutting his own reporting.
In it, Rosenberg said he’s “so over” January 6 and that the left’s reaction to the organized mob ineptly attempting to kill the vice-president and overturn the election “in some places was so over the top.”
“Me and two other colleagues who were there, who were outside, we were just having fun,” he said in the video.
Just this January, though, Rosenberg co-wrote a story headlined “The Next Big Lies: Jan. 6 Was No Big Deal, or a Left-Wing Plot.” The term “the big lie” is an allusion to Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen, but the phrase has its roots in a descriptor for Nazi propaganda tactics. The story treats January 6 with gravity, as a dangerous and lethal event that traumatized people and deserves to be treated seriously, not dismissed.
How to square what Rosenberg said in the video with what he reported in the New York Times under his byline is difficult, especially because neither he nor the Times will discuss it. Rosenberg didn’t respond to Politico’s requests for comment, nor Motherboard’s; the Times’ normally chatty public-relations staff, meanwhile, declined to give Politico comment, and didn’t even respond to multiple messages from Motherboard.
It’s understandable that the Times would want not to give oxygen to an operation that’s suing it and targeting its reporters with undercover stings that people at the paper feel cross a line into harassment; it’s also understandable that it would want to handle Rosenberg insulting colleagues as a purely internal matter. It’s less understandable why it wouldn’t address a star journalist seemingly intimating that his own coverage is not entirely honest.
Given the silence, the only conclusion anyone can draw is that there’s a wide gap between what Rosenberg thinks and what he runs in the Times under his own name.