President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who acquired the ownership of New York Observer as a “graduation present” from his real estate developer father in 2006, reportedly used his position to commit one of the most unethical things in journalism: he removed articles highlighting the shady business practices and expensive purchases of his friends and fellow executives from the newspaper.
As reported by the BuzzFeed News, Kushner approached a software employee, who was working as an outside consultant at the time, to delete the unfavorable stories from the Observer’s website.
One of the stories scrubbed off the site detailed a 2010 settlement between the New York State Attorney General’s Office and real estate developers Vantage Properties after the company allegedly used illegal tactics to force tenants out of their homes in a bid to raise rents.
Removing stories about Vantage Properties seemed to be a continuing theme, as Kushner also reportedly ordered removal of another article, which apparently talked about the company’s top executive, Neil Rubler, being placed on a “10 worst landlords” list.
Even though the New York Observer has a smaller circulation, it used to be fairly popular among the New York’s elite. It means if Kushner did order to remove those articles, it was a calculated attempt to not upset his readers – and it was immoral, to say the least.
Moreover, the editorial staff at the newspaper claimed it did not know about the deletions, since Kushner directly went to the tech team to have the stories removed without ever involving the editors. Among the people who complied with the real estate mogul’s orders was Austin Smith, who said he was hired to lead the tech team for the Observer Media Group before he began working as a consultant.
“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,” he told BuzzFeed News.
It is important to mention Kushner stepped down from his editorial role for the sake of joining his wife, Ivanka Trump, and father-in-law in the White House, where his position appears far more tumultuous than the future of Observer under his leadership.
“If I had known about it, Jared and I would have had a big problem," said Elizabeth Spiers, the former editor of the Observer. “Jared's such a coward. Went directly to Austin because he knew I wouldn't do it.”
She said since Smith was not an editorial employee, he didn’t have much say in the matter – especially when the orders came directly from the boss.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters, Joshua Roberts