On Tuesday, a bombshell report dropped in the New York Times that gave a detailed and damning account of the machinations behind President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. Most explosive of all, the report found that Trump told officials that they should be shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down during commotion at the border, contrary to U.S. law.
It was remarkable reporting that appeared to expose Trump’s brutality, ignorance of the law, disdain for human rights, and abuse of power. Arguably, the direction is an impeachable offense in its own right. But in light of the importance of the claims it contained, the piece also inspired sharp criticism.
The conversations the reporters Michael Shear and Julie Davis described in the story took place in March 2019 — but they were only published now, at the beginning of October. It’s not clear when the reporters learned of the most serious details in the piece, but the report is actually an adapted excerpt of their upcoming book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” which will be published on Oct. 8 — in one week. And some of the findings the excerpt confirms, such as Trump ordering border agents to break the law and deny entry to asylum-seekers, have previously been reported months ago.
All this strongly suggests that the Shear and Davis have had the information about Trump’s direction that migrants be shot in the legs, but they have been waiting to make it public until it would be advantageous for their book’s publication. Reporters keeping major details of their reporting a secret until publication of a book is quite common, but especially in this case, many argued that it should be unacceptable as a matter of journalistic ethics.
If you have pertinent, alarming, and corroborated information about the most powerful man in the world, some claimed, you have an obligation to make it public as soon as possible. You shouldn’t sit on it in order to optimize your book’s marketing.
Read some of the criticisms below:
gonna go ahead and say that if you know the president said in a meeting that we should be shooting migrants in the… https://t.co/yz51cNhnGJ— Ashley Feinberg (@Ashley Feinberg)1569967672.0
This is a serious point. I understand people want to sell books, but I would argue that journalists have an ethical… https://t.co/xkwsCLn0OQ— Brendan Nyhan (@Brendan Nyhan)1569985895.0