Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, ripped into Donald Trump at last night’s Arthur W. Page awards dinner held at the Grand Hyatt in New York. 

The recipient of the Larry Foster Award for Public Integrity discarded his prepared remarks to respond to the president’s tweet earlier in the day that called the NYT “a true enemy of the people.”

“Enemy of the people is not just a tossed-off line that sounds good in a tweet,” said Baquet. “It's a particularly pernicious phrase with a deep history that surfaced in the French Revolution when it was used to set up a tribunal that would punish the opposition.”

The term became so embraced by “dictators and despots” that former Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev demanded an end to its use because it eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight.

Dean Baquet
Dean Baquet

Baquet noted that Khrushchev said energy of the people was “specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating people who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

He said no American president had ever uttered those words in public. “I have no doubt that the president’s anti-press rhetoric has inspired a sudden and frightening round of attacks on reporters for The Times and other news organizations.”

If he had the opportunity, Baquet would ask Trump how is the Times the enemy of the people when it reported on the abuses of Harvey Weinstein and sparked an international movement or when its reporters risk their lives covering wars in Afghanistan and Syria.

“And of course, how is it against the interests of the American people when reporters spend more than a year digging into obscure hidden records to tell the story of the president’s wealth and how his father actually made him a wealthy man, a fact that goes against his lifelong narrative,” asked Baquet.

The US media, in the past, could always count on the support of the White House if an American reporter was captured or injured in war, noted Baquet.

“You could count on the White House to help because every president, no matter his party, understood our role in the world, even if they didn’t always love us. Sadly, I’m not sure who I would call today,” said Baquet, who received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.