The New York Observer, which is owned by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is “re-visiting” its policy on covering Trump’s presidential campaign in the wake of the revelation that its editor in chief provided “input” for Trump’s speech to AIPAC last month.
The Observer had reported Trump’s own comment at the time of the speech that he had consulted his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, about the speech to the pro-Israel lobbying group.
But the paper made no mention of any role played by Observer editor Ken Kurson. That came out Sunday in a long New York Magazine article, which reported in passing that Kushner wrote the speech “with input from Observer editor Ken Kurson.”
Kurson, a former adviser to 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, told the Huffington Post that he read a draft of the speech but as HuffPost media writer Michael Calderone wrote, “did not specifically address a question about whether he wrote or edited any of the speech.”
In an email to Calderone, Kurson said: “‘Input: I looked at a draft. Jared [Kushner] and I have been discussing politics since 2004 ….It’s not unusual for an editor to talk politics with his publisher. What’s unusual is that a publisher’s father-in-law runs for president.'”
“‘It’s a complicated world and I don’t intend to let the eleven people who have appointed themselves the journalist police tell me, at age 47, how to behave or to whom I’m allowed to speak,'” he said in the email. It wasn’t clear which eleven people Kurson had in mind. He had not responded to an email request for comment late Monday from The Washington Post.
In any case, on Monday, Observer senior politics editor Jillian Jorgensen tweeted a statement to Calderone:
A recent report about Observer Editor Ken Kurson’s input on a speech delivered by Donald Trump before AIPAC has resulted in new scrutiny of our newspaper’s relationship with Mr. Trump, who is the father-in-law of our publisher, Jared Kushner. Going forward, there will be no input whatsoever on the campaign from Mr. Kurson or anyone on the editorial side of the Observer.
Further, we are re-visiting our policy on covering Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign—something that has been a matter of frequent discussion and debate at the Observer since Mr. Trump announced his candidacy. The policy has evolved from our original plans to simply not cover Mr. Trump to covering him when he intersected with New York politics to more recently covering his campaign with mainly straight news stories, with an effort to avoid the opinion and analysis pieces of which other candidates have been the subject.
That policy has become less tenable as the field of candidates has shrunk. In the interest of covering the race as fairly as possible despite the unavoidable conflict of interest created by our ownership—a conflict we disclose on each story about Mr. Trump—and in response to concerns raised by staffers at the paper, Observer writers will now be able to cover Mr. Trump in the same way they cover every other candidate in the presidential race.
Whatever role Kurson played in the speech, it was not well-received by AIPAC, which felt compelled to apologize for Trump’s attacks on President Obama, including saying that Obama was “maybe the worst thing to happen to Israel.”
“While we may have policy differences,” AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus said, “we deeply respect the office of president of the United States and our president, Barack Obama. There were people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night, and for that we are deeply sorry. We are disappointed that so many people applauded the sentiment that we neither agree with or condone.”
Truth-be-told, Kurson is not a typical newspaper editor with years of nonpartisan newsroom experience behind him. He was a high-level adviser to Rudy Giuliani; co-author of Giuliani’s book, “Leadership;” deputy director of communications for Giuliani Partners, the former New York mayor’s consulting company and a top adviser to Giuliani’s failed 2008 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Kurson, who wrote for Esquire before teaming up with Giuliani, was appointed editor of the Observer by Kushner, reportedly a family friend, in January 2013. He became the sixth editor in the seven years since Kushner, a real estate developer married to Ivanka Trump, bought the paper in 2006.
“Mr. Kurson says he knows he will be closely watched,” the late New York Times media writer David Carr reported at the time. “‘People will think what they want,’” Kurson told Carr. “‘I will have to earn their trust. I have had a long and honorable journalistic career, calling it like I see it and being a straight shooter.’”