On Monday, Steven Perlberg of BuzzFeed News reported that in 2012, “Jared Kushner personally ordered a software developer at his newspaper to remove stories that were critical of his friends and real estate peers.” According to Perlberg’s story, Kushner “went around the editorial leaders at the New York Observer … to mandate the removal of a handful of articles from the website.” Per BuzzFeed News, “White House spokespeople did not return requests for comment on Kushner’s behalf.”
The software developer who removed the stories, Austin Smith, wrote about the deletions on the website Y Combinator the day before BuzzFeed News published its report. “After Jared Kushner originally bought the New York Observer, I was hired to lead the tech team, which I did for a year and a half in house then for three more as a vendor,” Smith wrote on Sunday. “He asked me, out of band, to blackhole articles critical of his commercial real estate colleagues and I complied.”
That wasn’t the first time Smith—who is now the CEO of the tech consultancy Alley—had written about these events. As he noted on Twitter, Smith described Kushner’s request in an April 2016 blog post that did not mention President Donald Trump’s son-in-law by name.
Earlier in my own career, when I worked to keep the New York Observer’s web site afloat during a period of transition, the publisher asked me to quietly remove a number of articles, and I did. What did I know? Nothing, of course, and that’s why he asked me.
Smith said on Monday that he knew of four articles that Kushner asked to be taken down from the Observer’s website:
Those stories included a piece that BuzzFeed News described as centering on “a settlement between then-New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo and real estate firm Vantage Properties regarding allegations that the company had illegally forced tenants out of their apartments to raise rents.” Another of the pieces was about Adam Silver, who is now the commissioner of the NBA, buying a $6.75 million apartment. While the other three stories Smith listed appear to have been scrubbed from the internet, the Silver piece can be read in full here.
Update, Aug. 7, 8 a.m. ET: A Twitter user managed to track down two more of the four stories that Kushner ordered deleted: “Cuomo Settles With Rubler’s Vantage Properties” (written by Slate’s politics editor Reid Pillifant in February 2010) and “Score! Neil Rubler Makes Voice’s 10 Worst Landlords of ‘10” (written by Dana Rubinstein in March 2010). Both stories, which are viewable by the Internet Archive, center on real estate investor Neil Rubler.