“Look at what they’re doing today to Justice Kavanaugh,” he said, referencing Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and drawing jeers from the rally’s attendees. “Did you see the New York Times?”
Trump’s comments marked the end of a full day alternating between slamming the Times and defending Kavanaugh over a weekend report from the publication that revealed a new allegation of sexual misconduct against the judge, who weathered similar accusations last year ahead of his confirmation. Kavanaugh has denied the previously reported claims.
The Saturday piece, an essay adapted from a forthcoming book by two Times reporters, has prompted Democrats to demand further investigations and even impeachment. Conservatives, meanwhile, have slammed the report as an attempt to “smear” Kavanaugh, honing in on the fact that the woman at the center of the latest account wouldn’t comment and has told friends she does not recall the incident. This fact was left out of the essay, which was updated with an editor’s note late Sunday.
For a president who regularly goes after the media, the controversy — a reminder of one of the most divisive moments in his term — has provided Trump with red-meat attacks against the Times and the journalists involved.
“I call for the resignation of everybody at the New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh smear story,” Trump said Monday as the crowd cheered. “The Times is dead, long live the New York Times, and I do want it to live, but they have to change their ways.”
The Times, which was roundly criticized for its framing of the news and for promoting the article with a tweet the newspaper later acknowledged was “offensive,” published a Q&A on Monday with its deputy editorial page editor to address the blowback. The newspaper did not respond to a request for comment late Monday regarding Trump’s most recent attacks, which began hours earlier on Twitter.
Quoting from a “Fox & Friends” segment on the essay, Trump tweeted shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, “The one who is actually being assaulted is Justice Kavanaugh — Assaulted by lies and Fake News!”
In another tweet minutes later, Trump wrote, “DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT THESE HORRIBLE PEOPLE WILL DO OR SAY. They are looking to destroy, and influence his opinions — but played the game badly. They should be sued!”
On Monday afternoon, while speaking with reporters on the South Lawn ahead of his trip to New Mexico, Trump didn’t hold back after a reporter asked if the people involved with the essay should be fired.
“The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” he said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen.”
He continued: “They have to be very embarrassed. But much more importantly, what they do is wrong, and they do it all the time.”
Back on Twitter, Trump continued ramping up his criticism, writing at around 5 p.m. that the Times should “close its doors and throw away the keys.”
Then, he called for everyone involved in the article to resign, a demand he repeated almost verbatim at the New Mexico rally.
“I don’t think they’ll do it, but I think they should for the good of the nation,” Trump told the crowd.
As he continued to rail against the Times report and Democrats at the rally, Trump also defended Kavanaugh, calling the judge a “great, brilliant man.”
“They say let’s impeach Justice Kavanaugh — one of the smartest, most brilliant students, top at Yale, incredible life, incredible family,” Trump said. “It’s a made-up story.”
But in Monday’s Q&A, the Times’ deputy editorial page editor, James Dao, argued that including the new allegation was “warranted.” According to the report, Max Stier, Kavanaugh’s Yale University classmate, said he saw Kavanaugh with his pants down at a college party. Stier, now the head of a prominent nonpartisan group in Washington, alleged that friends pushed Kavanaugh’s penis into the hand of a young woman at the same event. The book’s authors, Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, wrote that senators and the FBI were aware of Stier’s claim but that the FBI did not investigate.
Dao did not address the update and editor’s note, but in an interview on MSNBC Monday night, Pogrebin and Kelly said their original draft of the essay mentioned the fact that the woman does not recall the alleged incident. The information was taken out during the editing process, Pogrebin said.
“I think what happened, actually, was we had her name and, you know, the Times doesn’t usually include the name of the victim,” she said. “And so I think in this case, the editors felt like maybe it was probably better to remove it. And in removing her name, they removed the other reference to the fact that she didn’t remember it.”
Pogrebin added that she and Kelly were part of the discussion to include the note at the bottom of the amended piece.
“There was so much heat,” she said. “Everyone has been kind of seizing on various aspects of this that we certainly didn’t want this to be an issue anymore. And we certainly never intended to mislead in any way. We wanted to give as full a story as possible.”