A “loose network” of Trump allies are planning to launch an “aggressive operation” to try to discredit news organizations by digging up “damaging information” about journalists, The New York Times reports.
The group is trying to undercut legitimate reporting of Trump by compiling “dossiers” of potentially embarrassing social media posts and public statements, The Times reported, adding that the group “has already released information about journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times.”
The group has scoured more than a decade of public posts by journalists but claims that “only a fraction” of what they found has been made public. “The research is said to extend to members of journalists’ families who are active in politics, as well as liberal activists and other political opponents of the president,” The Times added.
The information that has already been released was quickly circulated by the conservative news outlet Breitbart and amplified by the likes of Donald Trump Jr. And Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson.
New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger condemned the effort.
“They are seeking to harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with the leading news organizations that are asking tough questions and bringing uncomfortable truths to light,” he said. “The goal of this campaign is clearly to intimidate journalists from doing their job, which includes serving as a check on power and exposing wrongdoing when it occurs. The Times will not be intimidated or silenced.”
A CNN spokesman said that when government officials “and those working on their behalf, threaten and retaliate against reporters as a means of suppression, it’s a clear abandonment of democracy for something very dangerous.”
Some journalists already hit:
On Thursday, Breitbart published an article documenting anti-Semitic and racist decade-old tweets by Tom Wright-Piersanti, an editor for The Times. The Times said the tweets were a “clear violation of our standards.” Wright-Piersanti apologized on Twitter and deleted the tweets, which he posted while in college.
The effort has also resurfaced anti-gay tweets made a CNN reporter when he was in college in 2011 and earlier circulated photos of a Business Insider reporter whose Instagram account included anti-Trump references.
The effort appears to be spearheaded by Arthur Schwartz, a former Steve Bannon operative who now serves as an informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr.
“A culture war is a war,” Bannon told The Times. “There are casualties in war. And that’s what you’re seeing.”