Jared Kushner, the business fox guarding a media henhouse.
In 2006, the White House prince purchased a $10 million majority stake in The New York Observer, a weekly newspaper known for its keen interest in both political affairs and real estate development. It seemed oddly fitting that Kushner, the youthful heir to billionaire real estate mogul Charles Kushner, would use this money to own controlled opposition. In the past, claims of their conflicting influence were just rumors. Now, following a new report from BuzzFeed News, those rumors seem to be confirmed.
Their source is Austin Smith, a former software developer turned tech editor for the weekly newspaper, who revealed Kushner forced his editors to remove articles that were “critical” of his friends and peers within the real estate industry, verified within emails from 2010 obtained by the publication. Smith, admitting he “complied” with the requests, expressed his regret for what he now considers a violation of journalistic ethics.
Smith detailed one incident where Kushner requested the removal of a 2010 story about a settlement scandal between then-New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo and real estate firm Vantage Properties. Following allegations the company “illegally forced tenants out of their apartments” to raise rent prices on their customers, Kushner demanded his lead editors completely drop the story as it implicated Neil Rubler, a top executive for Vantage Properties and one of the Kushners’ protected friends, in the scandal.
In the Observer article — now deleted, of course — it stated that Rubler was among the “top 10 worst landlords” in America which was a bloody fair statement from the journalists given the details of the story. This Orwellian news erasure didn’t just stop at one friend, however. The article continues to highlight a 2012 story concerning NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who purchased a $6.75 million apartment in a fancy New York City building. He described the boy as the NBA’s “unofficial, unpaid adviser,” particularly when they were looking for private space in the area. Journalist Steven Perlberg then cited a 2016 New Yorker article where Silver said Kushner, no matter how big or small the request, was a “helper-outer” for his friends in need.
“That Kushner, a newspaper owner of all people, would participate in an administration that labels news media ‘the enemy of the people’, is an affront to the very notion of the freedom of the press and an utter betrayal of those who worked hard and in good faith for him at the Observer,” Smith told BuzzFeed News, explaining this behaviour continued until 2017, when Kushner was eventually forced to give his newspaper to a family trust upon becoming a senior White House advisor to the president.
This wasn’t just Kushner playing ethical editor, guiding the newspaper towards public interest stories over the tabloid fodder, but a wealthy businessman using his position for corrupt journalism. All in the service of friends, whether privacy hawks or potential criminals exploiting the market. Elizabeth Spiers, the former editor-in-chief of the Observer, tried to save face in saying she was unaware Kushner would use their office to circumvent editorial leadership, but it’s just hard to imagine how their commanding millionaire’s requests went unnoticed.
Either scenario proves you’re worthless at that job.
She soon took to Twitter to blast Kushner:
“I found out a few months ago that while I was the editor in chief of the Observer, Jared was instructing our third party tech provider to delete articles critical of his business associates w/out my knowledge,” she wrote. “I don’t have enough choice expletives describe my feelings about that.”
“But if you want to be the worst possible owner of a news operation,” she continued, “vindictively and unethically erasing the work of your own your own (severely underpaid, hardworking) journalists solely to lubricate the volume and frequency of your cocktail party invites is a good way to do it.”
Kushner’s deletion orders continued under Aaron Gell, former Observer deputy editor turned successor of Spiers, who told a similar tale:
“When Jared announced I was out, he told me, ‘I just needed someone I could trust,’” Gell told BuzzFeed News. “The more I learn about how he wanted to run the paper, the more I’ve been able to take that as a compliment.”
While mainstream media outlets, targeted by President Trump as being the “enemy of the people,” are quick to label these words dangerously false, only the latter is a lie. Any journalist worth their salt shouldn’t abandon their values of the truth to appease corporate overlords and their desperate friends. It’s this kind of behavior that got to Ed Shultz, the former MSNBC news host, who admitted his corporate owners refused coverage of Sen. Bernie Sanders on their network during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s the same behavior we see at Sinclair Broadcasting, Jeff Bezos’ The Washington Post and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, where journalists, through internal memos and heated phones, are fed establishment talking points above independent coverage, or they face top-down punishment. The president is right in saying that certain journalists are political activists, bribed with moneyed incentives, who are pushing for policy antithetical to both truth and the public interest.
His beloved son-in-law also isn’t above such loathsome behavior.
It’s one thing to have Kushner and editors selectively retract stories based on perspective or factual errors. There’s an argument Silver’s story is nothing above tabloid interest into how much some person’s house is worth, where the focus should turn to the important issues. It’s another thing when you’re being paid to arrive at that position, whether through currency or interpersonal relationships, rather than an authentic interest in honest journalism. Particularly when the ones paying you are potential criminals.
I don’t see conservatives out for Kushner’s head, chanting “lock him up” as the president’s army condemn his unethical publication. The closest we’ve ever gotten was Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, who once reportedly labeled the guy a “cuck” over White House turf wars. When the victim is Alex Jones, sound the alarms of media integrity! When it comes to the 400 middle-working class residents, illegally booted from their homes for artificial price inflation, it’s another story entirely.