Former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson claims in her new book, “Merchants of Truth,” that the newspaper’s publisher authored an apology letter to the Chinese government after publishing a particularly critical investigative report on the country’s corruption.
Abramson says her “blood pressure rose” when she caught wind of a draft apology letter to the Chinese government by publisher Arthur Sulzberger, which she believes was written to bolster The NYT’s business interests in China.
The tensions between The NYT and the Chinese government arose when a reporter started digging into how the Chinese ruling class amassed its wealth. The Chinese government was allegedly “enraged” by the story and met with Sulzberger to stop its publication — Sulzberger refused and the story went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
While Sulzberger publicly supported the story, Abramson claims in her book that privately he was concerned about how its publication was affecting The NYT’s new venture in China.
The NYT had recently launched a Chinese-language site that employed 30 Chinese journalists, but after publication of the corruption story, the Chinese government blocked the NYT’s website, refused to issue any more visas to employees, and detained some of its reporters.
Abramson then allegedly found out that Sulzberger wrote a letter “all but apologizing” for the story “with input from the Chinese embassy.”
The pair met at a Starbucks and got into a spat over the letter.
“[Sulzberger] seemed startled that I had [the letter] and he kept saying, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’ He tried to slip the letter into his folder, but I snatched it back,” Abramson writes in her book.
The NYT disputed Abramson’s version of events in a statement to Fast Company:
No, the account isn’t accurate and the publication of this 2012 story is a powerful example of the Times’s deep commitment to publishing stories in the public interest without regard to potential financial impact. We published this story knowing in advance that our Chinese-language website, which had launched just months before, would be shut down–it remains shut down today. We’ve vigorously protested the shutdown and continue to fund the website to send a clear signal that our journalists cannot be silenced in retaliation for their coverage.
Abramson made waves with another excerpt from her book in which she called the paper’s coverage “unmistakably anti-Trump” and said that the paper has financial incentive to bash the president. (RELATED: Former NYT Editor Says Her Comments On The Paper Were Taken ‘Totally Out Of Context’)
The former editor later claimed that those words were taken “out of context” and added that the book is “full of praise” for The NYT.