New York Times Seder-Shames Ivanka Trump
The New York Times wants everyone to know that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had a Passover seder in New Jersey, not Washington, DC — and that the Times disapproves of the decision.
A Times news article published online and later in print plays gotcha with the presidential daughter’s Passover plan. Online, the article is headlined, “Ivanka Trump, Disregarding Federal Guidelines, Travels to N.J. for Passover.” The subheadline is, “Ms. Trump herself has not followed the federal guidelines advising against discretionary travel, leaving Washington for another one of her family’s homes.”
The Times even uses anonymous sources to prop up its seder scoop, reporting in a kind of breathless, Bob Woodward style: “Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, traveled with their three children to the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey to celebrate the first night of Passover this month, according to two people with knowledge of their travel plans, even as seders across the country were canceled and families gathered remotely over apps like Zoom.”
Well, in our experience, at least, not many seders were “canceled.” On a net basis, there were probably more seders, if smaller ones, than there ever have been, as people who usually are guests at large seders wound up leading their own. The Times doesn’t say whether the Trump family seder involved Zoom, or what relatives, if any, were in attendance beyond the five-person Kushner-Trump family. The federal guidelines about the novel coronavirus are just that — guidelines. There’s no statutory definition of what travel is “discretionary” and what is not. If the Times thinks that Trump’s action poses any Covid-19-related public health risk, it doesn’t explain how it does. If anything, it’s the Times creating the public health risk by publicizing the travel, turning a private move by two White House aides into an international news story.
Who knows, maybe the Trumps have a Passover kitchen at Bedminster, or were able to observe the holiday there while putting themselves, their children, or their staff at less personal risk. Maybe they consulted medical or rabbinic authorities — or both — before deciding to make the trip, and weighed various considerations to decide what would be best for their family and for the country.
The Times print headline is “President’s Daughter Ignores Travel Guidelines.” That’s inaccurate, because maybe she didn’t “ignore” them, maybe she thought about them, and decided her own travel was not discretionary, or that she should go anyway, given the competing considerations. It’s also weird to frame the whole thing as if it were entirely Ivanka’s decision and to focus the article and the main headline on Ivanka, as if Jared were just some kind of suitcase that Ivanka threw in the trunk of the sport utility vehicle on the way to the Garden State.
In seder-shaming Jared and Ivanka, the Times is joining one of the more unattractive trends that has gone along with the novel coronavirus — the practice of spying on people who are observing the Jewish religion, and ratting them out publicly for doing so.
The Miami Herald, for example, reports that in Miami Beach, “The city banned formal religious services at places of worship on March 27. Violations of the order are considered a criminal offense.” How that is consistent with the First Amendment is totally beyond me. What happened afterward, the Herald reports, is that when Jewish prayer gatherings moved into private homes, neighbors hired a private investigator to report the home-based prayer services to the city.
The Herald article, headlined “Neighbor hires detective to spy on Jewish prayer groups after coronavirus closes temples,” quoted a Miami Beach Commissioner, Ricky Arriola, who:
said it was “troublesome” to see neighbors turning on each other to disclose the locations of religious gatherings.
“These are very stressful times for folks,” Arriola said. “Many people find comfort in religion and observing religious traditions and ceremonies. I think we have to be respectful of their individual decisions.”
Even some Times readers didn’t think much of this story. As one Times commenter, “CC” from Nevada City, put it in a comment that won a “Times Pick” gold medal, “C’mon. This is a ‘tempest in a tea pot.’ I have no affinity at all for Trump or his family, but this isn’t worth your time or the readers.’ The family stayed together in the car; no one in the public was affected. … What’s the problem?”
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.