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July 3, 2020 11:52 am

New Managing Editor at New York Times an ‘Antisemite’? Check It Out First

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

Allies of the incoming managing editor of The New York Times editorial page are pushing back against a poorly substantiated, yet widely spread, accusation that she is an antisemite.

The New York Times announced June 22 that Charlotte Greensit would start July 6 as “Opinion’s managing editor and associate Editorial Page editor.” That triggered a flurry of intense scrutiny of her paper trail, which included tweets promoting content from The Intercept, a left-of-center website focused on foreign policy and national security issues where she had served as managing editor since 2015.

The Times opinion page has been a scorched-earth battleground in the culture wars. Editorial page editor James Bennet resigned under pressure on June 7, and one of his deputies was reassigned after the Times published an opinion article by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, calling for the deployment of the US military to quell what the article called an “orgy of violence” and “rioters and looters” in American cities following the death in police custody of George Floyd.

A June 26 syndicated column by Jonathan Tobin, editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Syndicate, appeared (not in the Times, but elsewhere, including The Algemeiner) under the headline “Antisemitism gets you fired at Labour and hired at the New York Times.” It accused Greensit of tweeting a “lie about Israel training American cops to commit human-rights abuses.” Tobin added that “blood libels have been a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda since the Middle Ages,” describing Greensit as “someone who spreads anti-Semitic blood libels.”

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The Tobin article also contextualized Greensit’s hiring as part of the Bennet-Cotton fiasco. Tobin wrote that Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger “vowed to change the way the opinion section operated, and to do that, he has hired Greensit.” Those familiar with the typically glacial pace of personnel decisions at the Times, however, say it’s likely that Greensit’s hiring was in the works well before Bennet’s departure and that it is not the product of a publisher-driven search that took only a mere three weeks from inception to fruition.

The Tobin column was widely circulated; it was picked up in one of Israel’s largest circulation newspapers, Israel Hayom. Another pro-Israel columnist, Caroline Glick, picked up the same theme in her own Israel Hayom column. Greensit “participated in the left’s newest blood libel that Israel is responsible for the alleged systemic racism of American law enforcement agencies,” Glick wrote. “The Times, which has long peppered its news stories with anti-Semitic undertones can be expected to double down on its anti-Jewish slant with Greensit in place.”

People who actually know Greensit say the depiction of her as an antisemite is totally inaccurate, a false accusation driven by a misinterpreted tweet of content she didn’t edit or even necessarily endorse, but that was published by her then-employer.

Ken Kurson — a former aide to Rudolph Giuliani and the former editor of The New York Observer — told The Algemeiner that he knows Greensit via her late husband, Jim Frederick, who was a journalist and author. “I have known Charlotte Greensit for years,” Kurson said. “Jim Frederick was a close friend and Charlotte is a good friend, too. They have been guests at our Shabbos table. I find these efforts to portray her as a bigot outrageous and disgusting. More to the point, efforts to tar anyone who is suspected of an unauthorized view of the Middle East as an antisemite feed into one of the most destructive tropes there is — that the Jewish people are so fragile we are endangered by an errant tweet. Charlotte is a great journalist and she’ll do great things at The New York Times.”

Howard Chua-Eoan — who worked with Greensit at Time and described her as one of his dearest friends — said of her tweets: “She was simply sharing stories published by her colleagues at the Intercept — my understanding is that she shared practically every story they publish, as any managing editor might do.” As for the effort to depict her as antisemitic, Chua-Eoan told The Algemeiner: “In 20 years of knowing her, 12 of those working with her, this characterization is completely alien to me, would be to any of us who have ever worked with her.”

Greensit herself deleted the old tweets and clarified on Twitter: “Just bc someone tweets co-workers’ articles (variety views/opinions), it doesn’t that person edited (not my role) / endorses.” In plain English that means, “Just because someone tweets co-workers’ articles that express a variety of views or opinions, it doesn’t mean that person edited the articles, which is not my role, or endorses the articles.” Greensit’s twitter bio also now emphasizes: “Sharing articles doesn’t = my opinion.”

Greensit’s LinkedIn profile describes her as a 1997 graduate of the University of Newscastle-upon-Tyne. She spent 12 years at Time. Her LinkedIn bio describes her as a specialist in “building and leading teams; planning and operations, budgets; partnerships; personnel management and mentorship; managing communications, audience, product and newsletter teams and strategies.”

Longtime Algemeiner readers know that I’m not exactly timid or reluctant when it comes to calling out anti-Jewish themes or tendencies at The New York Times; it’s been a longtime obsession of mine. But after a couple of days reporting it out, your columnist’s opinion is that this is one where there’s less than meets the eye. One could fault the Times from hiring from the hard-left-leaning Intercept, but the Times editorial page has also hired from the right-leaning Weekly Standard and Wall Street Journal editorial page. What matters less is what they did before they got to the Times and what matters more is what they do after they get to the Times. Greensit, like the new editorial page editor, Kathleen Kingsbury (who endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar after a reality-show-style televised interview process), seems less characterized by a clear or super-intense ideological tilt and more characterized by a drive to grow the editorial page’s influence on new platforms such as audio and video, and to increase its clout and business success on the Internet.

It’s fair to say that Greensit should have kept more of a distance from any content blaming Israel for US police brutality, or from other Intercept content critical of the pro-Israel lobby or that promoted the agenda of Hamas in Gaza. But that kind of ideological purity is a luxury, especially when senior positions in journalism are so scarce. Applying such a standard consistently would require mass resignations at most mainstream news organizations.

The entire episode says less about Greensit than about the risks of the pro-Israel right adopting some of the worst habits of the anti-Israel left — rushing to portray others as bigots before checking first to see whether the accusation is well founded.

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.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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