New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger warned Trump on July 20 that the president's consistent attacks on the news media — particularly in characterizing reporters and journalists as the "enemy of the people" — will contribute to increased threats of violence against those workers who exercise the right to free speech encoded into the US Constitution.
Although the July 20 meeting between Trump and Sulzberger was originally classified as off-the-record, a Sunday tweet by the president removed the necessity to honor the White House secrecy demand, according to the publisher, cited by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
In Trump's Sunday tweet — posted from one of the president's privately-owned golfing estates — POTUS revealed that the meeting took place and commented on details.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
Following Trump's Sunday tweet about the confidential meeting, Sulzberger — noting that the president had now placed the discussion on the record — quickly moved to document the substance of the July 20 conversation.
Sulzberger, who took lengthy notes of the July 20 meeting, noted that the invitation from the White House — which included the Nytimes.com editorial page editor James Bennet — was accepted "to raise concerns about the president's deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric," cited by SCMP.
The publisher noted that he "told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous," adding,
"I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news' is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.' I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence."
"I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad," Sulzberger documented, pointing out that Trump's "rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists," cited by SCMP.
"I warned that [threats against the media made by Trump] was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country's greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press."
The New York Times publisher noted that, "throughout the conversation I emphasised that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world," adding, "I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair."
"I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country," Sulzberger recorded.
The White House, beyond acknowledging that the meeting took place, has provided no additional details.