An anonymous opinion piece published by The New York Times depicted someone from the inside of President Donald Trump’s administration as filtering the President’s desk.
“I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” Claims the author in its sub header on the New York Times’ website. The author takes a divided view of the president and his administration and calls President Trump a child, saying “there are adults in the room.”
The author also praised parts of his administration, saying some of the decisions made by the administration “have already made America safer and more prosperous.”
Critics have risen around this anonymous individual and the New York Times’ decision to publish anonymously. The New York Times rarely publishes anonymous opinion pieces. The editorial staff, however has published two anonymous articles in the past two years.
Editorial decisions aside, the article’s anonymity caused a stir in an already volatile political environment, inside the administration and out. Kevin McCarthy, House majority leader, did not hold a high opinion of its writer: “This official did not have the courage to attach his name to this explosive essay, but at least he had the honesty to portray himself for what he is: a subversive.” McCarthy said in a retaliatory opinion also published by the New York Times.
Nate Wertjes, a junior at John Brown University, thought the piece antithetical to helping an administration succeed. “Anyone attempting to undermine an administration by publishing an anonymous piece is undermining the values our country should stand for.”
“When someone is working for an administration, there’s a certain amount of loyalty to be expected. If you disagree with the administration’s policies, you can voice your disagreements,” Wertjes said, “but publishing an anonymous piece seems to take it a step too far.”
The New York Times has been fielding questions about the anonymity choice for a while. When asked why the Times would publish it to begin with, the editorial response said their purposes were to offer a wider view. “In our view, this Op-Ed offered a significant first-person perspective we haven’t presented to our readers before: that of a conservative explaining why they felt that even if working for the Trump administration meant compromising some principles,”
The decision is rare even outside of major national news outlets like the New York Times. Max Bryan, crime reporter for the Fort Smith Times Record, says the Times Record does not usually grant anonymity for its sources. “You usually see anonymity more with investigative journalism on a federal level. You don’t usually see it on a state, regional, or local level.”
If a local politician, for example, wanted to submit an anonymous piece to the Times Record, the paper would probably not grant that source anonymity. “We probably wouldn’t,” Bryan said, “For a couple of reasons.”
“It’s a town of ninety thousand. People know who the local leaders are. It would probably breed some divisiveness. But with this it’s on a federal level, and everything is already extremely divisive as it is.”