From 2006 until just before Donald Trump was inaugurated, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was the publisher and owner of the New York Observer. During that time, he received emails from WikiLeaks — and his newspaper published glowing profiles of the organization and its’ founder, Julian Assange.
A Foreign Policy report released on the back of news that Kushner failed to disclose emails from WikiLeaks details the ways WikiLeaks and the Observer scratched each others’ backs. The day before the 2016 election, the paper published an article titled “Latest WikiLeaks: Clinton Critics Were Right All Along,” one of many that appears to praise the organization Republicans once considered lawless and dangerous.
Though the paper’s former editor-in-chief slammed allegations of impropriety between WikiLeaks and the Observer, another of their former top editors claimed in an MSNBC interview Monday that it’s very unlikely the former newspaper owner was unaware that his subordinates were commissioning articles praising the same leak organization his father-in-law claimed to “love.”
“The editor-in-chief of the Observer at the time, Ken Kurson, is a close family friend of the Kushners and a former Republican operative,” Elizabeth Spiers, a former Observer editor-in-chief, told host Ari Melber. “This is also not the first time Kurson has hired a freelancer who parroted talking points that were coming from the Russians.”
Responding to Foreign Policy‘s reporting that the Observer‘s critical tone on Assange shifted after a writer named Jacques Hyzagi wrote a “glowing” profile of the WikiLeaks founder for them in 2014, Kurson said Hyzagi’s piece was not indicative of the newspaper’s stance because he’s a freelancer.
“We ran an interview pitched to us by a freelancer,” Kurson wrote to FP in an email. “I have never communicated in any way with Julian Assange and this sort of fact-free, evidenceless charge is analogous to pizzagate and other totally ludicrous conspiracies.”
Spiers said that Kurson hired a writer named Mikhail Klikushin who eventually wrote 12 articles that “spouted Kremlin talking points,” but then claimed he was not culpable for publishing the propaganda once the writer was outed.
“In both cases, Kurson says that the paper isn’t the blame, he isn’t to blame, because these were freelancers,” she said. “As somebody’s who’s been the editor of a paper, I find that preposterous.
Along with Kushner’s claim that he didn’t recall contacts with WikiLeaks following the House Intelligence Committee’s letter alleging he’d received communications from them, Donald Trump, Jr.’s connection to WikiLeaks also made headlines last week when The Atlantic revealed that he had direct message exchanges with the organization on Twitter.
Watch the interview with the Observer‘s former editor-in-chief below, via MSNBC.