The Slatest

New York Times Says Trump Administration Refused to Assist Reporter Facing Arrest in Egypt

The New York Times building on Sept. 6, 2018, in New York.
New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger recounted the incident, which happened two years ago, on Monday.
Angela Weiss/Getty Images

The Trump administration’s pettiness and vindictiveness knows no bounds in pursuing its own self-interest. One prime example is President Donald Trump’s daily assault on the media, freedom of the press, and the individual journalists that rely on it. Trump’s chilling effect on truth and loathing of accountability of any kind have, unsurprisingly, crept into American state conduct abroad. The latest account of media score settling comes from New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who recounted in a talk Monday at Brown University how two years ago a U.S. government official had gone around the Trump administration to warn the news organization that the Egyptian government planned on arresting its reporter in Cairo. The official went outside the normal reporting structure and directly to the Times because, Sulzberger said, the official believed Trump administration officials were going to sit on the information and allow Declan Walsh, the Times’ Egypt-based journalist, to be apprehended.

“Though the news was alarming, the call was actually fairly standard,” Sulzberger said in his remarks that were then printed in the opinion section of the Times. “But this particular call took a surprising and distressing turn. We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration. Rather than trying to stop the Egyptian government or assist the reporter, the official believed, the Trump administration intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out. The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger.”

“Unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned, we turned to his native country, Ireland, for help,” Sulzberger said. “Within an hour, Irish diplomats traveled to his house and safely escorted him to the airport before Egyptian forces could detain him.” Within an hour. The difference in response is startling and obviously worrying. Beyond journalism, it’s easy to imagine the current administration failing to assist Americans in peril simply because of their political views or past gripes with Trump and his administration.

Eighteen months after that incident, another Times reporter, David Kirkpatrick, was immediately arrested and deported upon arrival in Egypt. When the New York Times raised the issue with the U.S. Embassy there, Sulzberger recalled a senior American official in Cairo responding: “What did you expect would happen to him? His reporting made the government look bad.”

What did you expect? His reporting made the government look bad.

That’s the Trump worldview in 11 words.