Conservatives Stage Meltdown Over New York Times’ 1619 Slavery Series

“The whole project is a lie.”

Imago/ZUMA

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On Sunday, the New York Times launched its much-anticipated 1619 Project, an entire magazine issue dedicated to examining the lasting legacy of slavery on the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in America. The reception to the initiative was overwhelmingly positive, with many applauding editor Nikole Hannah-Jones for spearheading a journalistic endeavor that deftly illustrates slavery’s impact on nearly every aspect of the country today.

But as praise poured in, so too did conservative grievances.

The resulting backlash, which managed to be both predictable and stunning, featured sitting senators and some of the right’s most influential commentators. Erick Erickson, a conservative activist and commentator, blasted the Times for including the work of “opinion writers who profit from seeing things through racial lenses.”

Erickson pressed further, in tweets that sparked their own backlash, equating the project’s contributors to President Donald Trump and his efforts to stoke racial fears. That sentiment was echoed in much of the right’s anger over the weekend:

Others sought to discredit the project by portraying it as part of a nefarious plot by the Times to undermine Trump. In many cases, they connected it to a misreading of comments made by Times executive editor Dean Baquet about the paper’s coverage.

But perhaps there was no one more aggrieved than Newt Gingrich, who tweeted three times lashing out at the project before taking his anger to Fox News Monday morning. The segment included accusations that the project was propagating a  “lie” that failed to give due recognition to white Americans who fought against slavery.

Gingrich even appeared to suggest that the project was an effort by the Times to use the issue of race to torpedo Trump’s reelection bid.

The backlash, however, appeared to do little to dim the enthusiasm surrounding the project, as evidenced by the many rushing to get their hands on a physical copy when the issue hit newsstands. 

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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