Jill Abramson, Ousted as Editor, Consistently Denied the New York Times's Liberal Tilt

Less than three years after she was tapped to succeed Bill Keller as Executive Editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson was fired from that position on Wednesday. According to Politico’s Dylan Byers, who broke the story, “news of her departure was met with shock throughout the newsroom.”

As Executive Editor, Abramson was responsible for the content on the news pages of the New York Times. And, during her years at the Times, Abramson consistently denied that the paper had a liberal tilt, although she sometimes allowed that the Times had a “cosmopolitan” outlook.

Abramson joined the Times in 1997, became Washington bureau chief in 2000, and became managing editor in 2003 after the downfall of former editor Howell Raines.

Wednesday afternoon, her career at the Times came to a sudden end. As Politico’s Byers wrote:

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was abruptly fired from the paper on Wednesday, sources familiar with the news informed Politico.

Managing editor Dean Baquet will take over as executive editor, effective immediately.

The news of her departure was met with shock throughout the newsroom. Senior editors were unexpectedly summoned to a 2 p.m. leadership meeting at the Times headquarters in New York. The news was then announced in a staff-wide meeting by publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

In his announcement, Sulzberger said Abramson’s departure was related to “an issue with management in the newsroom,” and had nothing to do with the quality of the paper’s journalism during her tenure. Abramson was not present for the newsroom announcement....

As editor, Abramson’s byline was a rarity, but she expressed her opinions in a variety of interviews in recent years. Among Abramson’s more memorable quotes, as documented in the MRC’s Notable Quotables newsletter:

No Liberal Bias

“I’m well aware that various conservative commentators regularly and loudly denounce the Times for being ‘a liberal rag.’ It just isn’t so.”
— Then-Managing Editor Jill Abramson in a multi-day online Q & A with New York Times readers, September 8-11, 2009.

Worshipping at the Altar of the Gray Lady

“Ms. Abramson said that as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she considered being named editor of the Times to be like ‘ascending to Valhalla.’ ‘In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion,’ she said. ‘If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth.’”                           
— From a June 2, 2011 NYTimes.com story by managing editor Jeremy Peters, quoting newly-named New York Times editor Jill Abramson. In the paper’s June 3, 2011 print edition, the second half of the quote was removed from Peters’ front-page story.

The New York Times Is a Liberal Rag? Nonsense!

“You know, I think that the people who see the Times as like a liberal rag are wrong and that they sometimes don’t understand the separation between our opinion side, which produces our editorials and our op-eds, and the news report....You know, the news reporters go into their stories with an open mind. And something I stress to our reporters at the Times is even when you think you know the story, go in ready to be surprised or illuminated by what somebody tells you.”
New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, October 19, 2011.


Can’t See Any “Atmosphere of Scandal” Around Obama

“It’s very easy to lump all of these issues together. I know that they absorb journalists inside of Washington. But I’m not sure how much any of these particular issues has absorbed the American public....Clearly, I’m very concerned about the leak cases, which is why I came here to talk to you this morning. But I’m just not sure, you know, they come together and create, you know — quote, unquote — ‘an atmosphere of scandal.’”
New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson on CBS’s Face the Nation, June 2, 2013.

Still No Admitting Liberal Bias...

“I can see how the intensity of coverage on certain issues may, to some people, seem to reflect a liberal point of view. But I actually don’t think it does.”
New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson talking about her newspaper’s political slant in an interview with the New Republic’s Michael Kinsley, August 20, 2013.

...But Maybe the Times Is “Kind of Cosmopolitan”

Host John Seigenthaler: “The New York Times is often labeled as left-wing, liberal. How do you respond to that?”
New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson: “I respond to it by saying I think the New York Times represents a kind of cosmopolitan outlook towards the world and to this country and this city that may strike, you know, some readers as liberal because we have, you know, paid a lot of attention to stories like gay marriage, but these are newsworthy currents in our society. But it’s not liberal in the sense of being doctrinaire or tied to the Democratic Party in any way. You know, I’ve run many investigative stories and political stories that have made liberal political figures furious.”
— From an interview aired on al-Jazeera America, January 26.

— Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Follow Rich Noyes on Twitter.