If he pursues a bid, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author and former foreign correspondent would become one of the most well-known media figures in recent memory to make a run for political office. In a statement about his departure to the Times, Kristof said he was resigning from his dream job “very reluctantly” and alluded vaguely to his possible run for governor in Oregon.
“I’ve been on the ride of a lifetime with The Times. I’ve gotten to know presidents and tyrants, Nobel laureates and warlords, while visiting 160 countries. And precisely because I have a great job, outstanding editors and the best readers, I may be an idiot to leave,” Kristof said.
“But you all know how much I love Oregon, and how much I’ve been seared by the suffering of old friends there,” he added. “So I’ve reluctantly concluded that I should try not only to expose problems but also see if I can fix them directly.”
In an email to the newsroom about Kristof’s departure, New York Times opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury said Kristof had redefined the role of opinion columnist “in the best possible way... with a mix of incisive reporting, profound empathy and a determination to bear witness to those struggling and suffering across the globe.”
Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger described Kristof as empathetic, fearless, open-minded and principled.
“He didn’t just bear witness, he forced attention to issues and people that others were all too comfortable ignoring,” Sulzberger said in a statement to the Times. “It’s hard to overstate how much I’ll miss him as a reader and as a colleague.”
Kristof, 62, grew up on a farm southwest of Portland, according to Willamette Week. The Times reported in June that Kristof and his wife, writer Sheryl WuDunn, returned to Oregon two years ago and that Kristof had recently become more involved in managing the family farm. In his filing this week to organize a candidate committee in Oregon, Kristof listed his occupation as “Journalist, Author, Farmer.”
“I have friends trying to convince me that here in Oregon, we need new leadership from outside the broken political system,” Kristof said in an emailed statement to The Washington Post in June. “I’m honestly interested in what my fellow Oregonians have to say about that. All I know for sure is that we need someone with leadership and vision so that folks from all over the state can come together to get us back on track.”
Kristof has been a Times columnist since 2001 and is best known for his foreign correspondence; he and WuDunn won the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for their coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing. Kristof won the Pulitzer Prize in commentary in 2006 for his columns on the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Kristof and WuDunn have also written several books, including “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” which was published last year.
Regardless of whether Kristof enters the race, Oregon’s Democratic gubernatorial primary field could wind up being a crowded one. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) is term-limited, and the 2022 Democratic primary field is wide open. At least six people are considering bids, including state Treasurer Tobias Read, state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and state House Speaker Tina Kotek.