In a scathing piece for the Columbia Journal Review, Kyle Pope details his tenure working under Jared Kushner as editor in chief of the New York Observer. Pope, who is now editor in chief and publisher at the CJR, describes Kushner as holding a deep-seated disregard for journalism and its potential use for any purpose other than self-aggrandizement. The transactional nature Pope describes of Kushner’s actions as the Observer’s owner and publisher is chilling, to say the least, considering the full-fledged assault on the press the White House is now waging. Here are some notable lowlights of Kushner’s tenure that Pope recalls in his piece:
1. Kushner attempted to order “hit jobs” on those who crossed his family.
Pope says he had to lecture Kushner about the inherent maliciousness of pursuing a story about a banker “whose only sin was running afoul of the Kushner family,” behavior from Kushner that Pope did not see as isolated.
2. Kushner viewed the Observer as an opportunity to advance his and his family’s interests — not to do serious reporting.
Though taking little interest in the newspaper’s content, Kushner used the newspaper to “settle scores and reward cronies,” Pope claims. Kushner regularly pushed the editorial staff to pursue stories that would be favorable to his friends and family while tarnishing the reputations of perceived foes, Pope says. The future presidential adviser was obsessed with the Observer’s bottomline, but Pope says that “Kushner wanted the Observer to succeed not because he believed in what it was, but because he needed it as a bullhorn for his own business interests.”
3. Kushner regularly refused to increase journalists’ pay, asserting that there “was a line of replacements willing to work for the same salary or less.”
“The fact that they were so poorly paid was evidence, in his mind, that what they did or how they did it could not possibly be that important,” Pope said. At a cocktail party one time, Kushner abruptly left a conversation with a staff writer, commenting that he “found someone more important to talk to.” Kushner also reneged on several pay raises he’d already approved for those on staff, Pope says.
4. Kushner didn’t read his own newspaper, “or anything else” besides the New York tabloids.
According to Pope, Kushner would brag about how he never read The New York Times. Pope concludes that Kushner “had no respect for or interest in journalism or the people who practice it,” seeing the utility of the journalism profession as solely deriving from its transactional benefits.
5. Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, would often pop in during meetings, where Jared would call him “Daddy.”
Pope attributes Jared Kushner’s obvious disdain for journalism to the blame the Kushner family laid upon the press for Charles Kushner’s downfall — not the elder Kushner’s actions, in which he, among other improprieties, sent a prostitute to his brother-in-law and taped the encounter in order to blackmail him. To Jared, honest reporting that damaged his family was not serving the public, Pope says. Such journalism was blasphemy.
6. Kushner’s views on the media parallel his father-in-law’s .
Throughout the piece, Pope frames Jared Kushner as totally blind to the goals and aspirations of journalism itself in ways eerily reminiscent of his father-in-law. Journalism wasn’t about serving truth to power for Kushner, but power to “truth.” Journalists weren’t to be ranked based on the rigor of their reporting or intellectual pursuits — status was the name of the Kushner tabloid game, Pope says. “In his view, journalism’s utility lay only in what it could do to polish his image or enrich his coffers or those of his family,” Pope said.
For Pope, the inherent narcissism that Kushner exhibited at the Observer reflects his father-in-law’s treatment of the media throughout the years — berate and defame honest reporting, and lavish praise on whatever praise comes his way. From the Trump-Kushner lens, status and celebrity takes precedence over integrity.
Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @sdavidson169.