New York Times faces backlash for endorsing Dan Goldman

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New York Times faces backlash for endorsing Dan Goldman
New York Times faces backlash for endorsing Dan Goldman


During the weekend, The New York Times Editorial Board has revealed its support for the upcoming state congressional primaries, endorsing the slates of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney in New York’s 17th District, Congressman Jerry Nadler in the 12th District and Dan Goldman in the 10th District .

The Times’s spectacle of supporting three white boys was enough of an attention grabber in itself, but covering it with the backing of Goldman, a self-funded heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, drew unusual attention to the paper’s approval process.

The extremely crowded race in a deep-blue district includes a current member of Congress, a former member of Congress, two members of the State Assembly and one member of the City Council. Goldman, a former lawyer in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, has held no public office and has so far given $4 million of his excessive personal wealth to his campaign. This type of self-funding has previously been a disqualification for Times endorsement, but the paper makes an exception for Goldman.

The paper also missed the open primary for New York’s 3rd District and missed an easy chance to endorse a non-white man in New York’s 16th District, which pits incumbent Rep. Jamal Bowman against Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi and Catherine County Legislator Parker.

Importantly in the context of the Times endorsement, the Goldman family enjoys ties to members of the Sulzberger family, which owns and operates the New York Times Co. for six generations. The paper’s current publisher and chairman of the parent company is Arthur Gregg “AG” Sulzberger. One of the rival candidates, Rep. Mondaire Jones, hinted at that connection at a joint news conference, attacking Goldman on Monday along with another candidate, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou. “Look, I have no idea if the generations of close family connection between the Sulzbergers and the Goldmans had any role in the approval,” Jones said.

The Times editorial board insisted that the decision was based on merit, but also revealed that the board was accountable to the publisher. AG Sulzberger did not step down despite ties between the Goldman and Sulzberger families and has in the past rejected editorial board preferences. Sulzberger, who lives in the 10th District, has expressed interest in the race internally, according to a political operative who does not work on behalf of either candidate, who has spoken directly with multiple editorial board members, as well as another person close to to Sulzberger.

“[O]Your election endorsements are independent decisions that arise through reporting and discussion by a panel of experienced journalists, through one-on-one interviews with candidates. This board reports directly to the opinion editor and through her to the publisher,” the Times said in a statement, adding that Sulzberger and Goldman do not know each other personally. Asked whether there were contacts between Goldman and members of the Sulzberger family during the endorsement process, Goldman campaign spokeswoman Simone Kanter said: “The answer to your question is no.” He also cited the Times statement.

Jones was featured so much in the endorsement text that without the title it could be seen as an endorsement of both men. The two experienced women of color in the race who are at or near the top of the polls, Niu and City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, were not mentioned at all in the endorsement. Ross Barkan of New York Magazine noted that the endorsement was part of a pattern of “the Times’ growing disdain for the progressive left.”

According to conversations with multiple members of Jones’ camp, the campaign was under the strong impression that a majority of the editorial board members supported his campaign, although no final decision had been made. But the Jones camp also understood the Sulzberger family’s influence over the process, and specifically AG Sulzberger’s ability to tip the scales, as Jones mentioned in his comments. There was widespread awareness at Jonesworld that majority board support did not always translate into approval, and when approval went to Goldman, it was a belief that the family’s personal preferences were involved.

Perhaps there is no other the approval of the country’s newspapers is as important as that of the Times, especially in the wealthier enclaves of New York. He has the demonstrated capacity to move the voters who are in his core audience. (The Times’ nod to Jones in 2020 helped him win his primary in the district now pursued by Maloney.) The paper doesn’t usually get that opportunity because seats open up so rarely. But a late redistricting change in New York flipped districts serving wealthy Manhattan communities, giving the Times real power to shape certain races with its endorsement.

The ties between the Goldman and Sulzberger families include their mutual membership in the elite circles of Washington, DC. Shortly after announcing an unsuccessful bid for New York attorney general, Goldman made a check for $1,000 from Joseph Perpich, Kathy Sulzberger’s husband. It was the 81-year-old Perpich’s only contribution to the New York state political race.

Goldman’s mother, Susan Sachs Goldman, and Kathy Purpich (née Sulzberger), the sister of the previous publisher of the New York Times and the aunt of the current publisher, both served on the board of trustees of the elite Beltway private school Sidwell Friends, where all three of the children of Goldman and Perpich’s (Sulzberger) three children attended school. At Sidwell, Goldman beat out David Perpich, who sits on the New York Times Co. board, by a year. and is publisher of Times products The Athletic and Wirecutter. Duke Magazine, the university’s alumni publication, featured Perpich as the NYT’s “quiet strategist” in 2020.

As a 16-year-old student at Sidwell in 1993, “Danny” Goldman was quoted in the Times reacting to Chelsea Clinton entering the private school. Days later, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post criticized the Times for publishing the story without disclosing Cathy Sulzberger’s presence on Sidwell’s board.

“It’s not uncommon for the board to want someone and the publisher someone else.”

Both Times official statement and a tweet thread from the company’s PR feed are carefully worded. In the tweet thread, the newspaper stated that there were “no members of the Sulzberger family having anything to do with endorsing candidates other than our publisher,” which is, of course, Sulzberger. The thread emphasizes that the endorsements are “independent decisions,” but adds that the board reports to the publisher, AG Sulzberger, through the opinion editor.

Daniel Okrent, a former Times public editor, had no idea about the specific endorsement in question, but explained that similar situations have happened before. “The newspaper publisher is the authority on the editorial page,” Okrent said. “It’s not uncommon for the board to want someone and the publisher someone else.”

Ocrent did not find this case particularly reprehensible; after all, the publisher is ultimately responsible for what goes out under the newspaper name. In this case, he was not sure whether it merited disclosure within the endorsement. “I see how [the editorial board] would think, “If we say he’s a family friend, that would weaken our resolve that he’s the best man for the job,” he noted.

The approval itself is unusually weak. He leads off by saying that Goldman and Jones stand out from most of the unnamed remaining members of the field. (Former Watergate-era lawmaker Elizabeth Holtzman and Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simon, along with Niu and Rivera, round out the top six candidates.) He highlights Goldman’s work impeaching Trump and says that “those who have worked with Mr. Goldman behind the scenes described him as diligent and prepared and a man of integrity.” Longtime local reporter Errol Lewis translated this to mean: “Inquiries of the alumni networks of Sidwell Friends, Yale, and Stanford Law, from which Goldman graduated, showed good reports and no scandals.’

The endorsement celebrates Goldman’s “brought[ing] serious political ideas about race,” but only mentions his support for “a ban on stock trading by members of Congress,” which was already widely embraced by a majority of Democrats. The endorsement praises Goldman for helping him with some research while in law school on The New Jim Crow book, but doesn’t dwell on Goldman’s immediate decision to become a prosecutor in the same criminal justice system the book just ripped apart.

Jones, by contrast, has been described as a “prolific legislator” and “a bridge builder between the progressive wing of his party and its more moderate leadership.” The only mark against him is that he lacks experience in working in the community he seeks to represent; Jones was forced out of his home district when Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, moved to a more favorable location. But, of course, Goldman also lacks that experience; the endorsement stated that “Goldman will need to use his first term to convince the large number of lower-income and middle-class Americans he will represent that he understands the issues facing those voters.”

The Times editorial board is also known to harbor ill will in general toward candidates who finance their campaigns themselves, a remnant of an anti-corruption piety that hearkens back to its mutt roots. Goldman held off on self-funding for much of the campaign, possibly fearful of losing the coveted endorsement. But on July 13, facing a cash crunch, he pumped $1.24 million of his own money into his campaign coffers and another $750,000 a week later. Goldman later donated an additional $2 million of its own money.

Goldman won the award without even mentioning that he broke the Times’ cardinal rule.

His opponents suggested that the move cost him the endorsement. In the past, when the Times has supported a wealthy candidate who financed their own campaign, it has been attacked for it in the process. “This page is very concerned about elections being fair and open and if Mr. [Michael] Bloomberg’s administration has been less than distinguished, his insistence on undermining the campaign finance system would disqualify him from our support,” the Times wrote in the past. “As it is, with that one caveat in mind, we enthusiastically endorse Michael Bloomberg for mayor.”

“Mr. Bloomberg’s current campaign approach reveals more about America’s broken system than how likely he is to fix it,” the Times noted, declining to endorse Bloomberg for president. “Instead of building support through his ideas and experience, Mr. Bloomberg has spent at least $217 million to date to bypass the hard, uncomfortable work of actually campaigning.”

But Goldman won the award without even mentioning that he broke the Times’ cardinal rule.

Goldman had already jumped to the top in an Emerson College poll even before the Times endorsement was published. Although he only took 22 percent of the vote in the poll, the unsettled field of candidates with similar ideologies could allow that small share to take the seat.

A similarly progressive split vote led former Republican Jake Auchincloss to win a Boston-area congressional seat in 2020. In that race, there were also rumors that the close relationship between the Auchincloss family and Boston Globe owners John and Linda Henry led to Auchincloss to win the approval of this paper.

The Times’ editorial board approval process has troubled the paper in the past. The 2020 Democratic presidential joint endorsement of Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren was roundly ridiculed two and a half years ago.

Wednesday night’s 10th District candidate debate at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Goldman, Jones, Niu, Rivera and Simon will be on stage.


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