Rosenthal of ‘NYT’: Report in ‘Vanity Fair’ is ‘Completely False’

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By: Joe Strupp

New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal on Wednesday said recent speculation that the Times endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the New York primary was based on pressure from Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is untrue.

“Arthur Sulzberger did not overrule the board. The sentiment of the Times board was overwhelmingly to endorse Hillary Clinton in the primary,” Rosenthal told E&P. “Arthur did not overrule anything.”

Rosenthal declined to say exactly how the board voted on the endorsement, which was given in January, but stressed that Clinton was the choice of the board members, which did not include Sulzberger.

His comments followed the release Wednesday of a Vanity Fair piece by Michael Wolff about the Times, which looks at the so-called “shareholder assault” on the paper and its response. It also raised the speculation again about the endorsement.

“The Times editorial board was, apparently, planning to endorse Barack Obama in the New York primary; the Clinton campaign, getting wind of this, called upon one of its major financial supporters (and eager-beaver prospective Treasury secretary), the private-equity manager Steven Rattner, the best friend and principal adviser of Arthur Sulzberger Jr.,” Wolff wrote. “Rattner is thought to have petitioned Sulzberger, and Sulzberger thereupon overruled his editorial board, which then backed Clinton.”

Today, however, Rosenthal flatly denied that version of events, stating, “Michael Wolff’s account of our endorsement is completely false. I haven?t a clue why somebody would print something that is not true.”

The speculation followed a previous Feb. 28 story by Gabriel Sherman in The New Republic that claimed the same thing.

“The 20-member board had initially leaned toward Obama, Times sources say. But in January, after the board had debated the endorsement in two separate sessions, Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. decided to favor Clinton,” Sherman wrote at the time.

Sherman’s story also included reaction from Rosenthal, but no specific comment on the speculation that the board had been overturned. “It was a really hard one, no question about it,” Rosenthal told Sherman. “We talked about this within our board for hours. It was a very lively, interesting discussion. Several members of the board said it was the best discussion they’ve had.”

Rosenthal added today that, “it is our policy not to comment on endorsements. But that [the Wolff account] is so wrong, we felt we had to do it.”

Wolff?s article appears in the May issue of Vanity Fair. You can read the full text now at:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/05/wolff200805

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