NY Times Publisher Defends 1619 Project After His Own Columnist Rips it to Shreds
Last week, one of the most comprehensive takedowns of the New York Times’s 1619 Project was written…in the pages of The New York Times. Conservative op-ed columnist Bret Stephens ripped the Pulitzer Prize-winning essay series up and down, left and right, leaving nothing behind but a pathetic skeleton.
“Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it,” Stephens wrote. “We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded. And we’re supposed to report and comment on the political and cultural issues of the day, not become the issue itself. As fresh concerns make clear, on these points — and for all of its virtues, buzz, spinoffs and a Pulitzer Prize — the 1619 Project has failed.”
Stephens noted that the 1619 Project has (quietly) changed its entire reason for existing – a cause which was originally supposed to forge an “understanding of 1619 as our true founding” – the date that the first slave ship arrived on the Atlantic shores. Now, the same passage says: “It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
That’s…a whole ‘nother story.
In his op-ed – which is worth reading in its entirety – Stephens completely dismantles the claims of author Nikole Hannah-Jones, who now says that she always meant that the project’s claims of 1619 as America’s true birth year were “metaphorical” and nothing more.
“Her answer was that the idea of treating the 1619 date metaphorically should have been so obvious that it went without saying,” Stephens wrote. “She then challenged me to find any instance in which the project stated that ‘using 1776 as our country’s birth date is wrong,’ that it ‘should not be taught to schoolchildren,’ and that the only one ‘that should be taught’ was 1619. ‘Good luck unearthing any of us arguing that,’ she added.”
He didn’t need to look too hard. He found it in Jake Silverstein’s essay introducing the 1619 Project – literally the first thing anyone would read from this misbegotten attempt at rewriting history:
1619. It is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country’s history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619?
If The New York Times had any integrity at all (and we do give them credit for running Stephens’ op-ed), they would issue a full retraction of the 1619 Project, apologize profusely to readers and historians, and sever their contract with Hannah-Jones.
Instead, publisher A.J. Sulzberger released a statement doubling down on his support of the project.
“It is a journalistic triumph that changed the way millions of Americans understand our country, its history and its present. Nikole is a brilliant and principled journalist who has deserved every bit of praise that has come her way,” Sulzberger wrote. “As I’ve said many times, 1619 is one of the proudest accomplishments of my tenure as publisher.”
Unreal. Every time this paper gets an opportunity to do the right thing, it goes in the complete opposite direction. You could set your watch to it.
Welp, if you’re going to go down in flames, you might as well go down spectacularly.