With a head-scratching endorsement in the race for New York’s 10th Congressional District, The New York Times put itself on the already crowded ballot in next week’s primary election. Out of a slate of 12 candidates, including a Congress member, a former Congress member, and state assembly and city council members, most of whom are either women or of color, the Times endorsed the only person without political experience, wealthy white Democratic attorney Daniel Goldman, known to many as a Democratic lawyer in the first Trump impeachment trial and an MSNBC legal analyst.
That led to one of the strangest twists in an already strange race on Monday afternoon: A joint press conference by former allies, now rival progressive candidates, US Representative Mondaire Jones and New York State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, where they blasted Goldman as a “conservative” Democrat who is trying to buy the seat and urged 10th district voters to get behind “anyone but Goldman.” But it was clear that one of their targets is the Times.
The paper’s endorsement has been attacked not just by rival candidates but also by local journalists from the center to the left. In New York magazine, Ross Barkan, a frequent Nation contributor, wrote “The Times Sticks It to Progressives.” But the decision was also blasted by veteran local journalist Errol Louis, who usually plays things straight. Louis wrote:
In a mini-masterpiece of elite liberal reasoning, the Times made no reference to any of the local representatives in the district or the gritty, difficult neighborhood issues on which they have toiled away over the years…but the board reassured its readers that, “Those who have worked with Mr. Goldman behind the scenes describe him as diligent and prepared and a person of integrity.” (Translation: Queries within the alumni networks of Sidwell Friends, Yale, and Stanford Law, from which Goldman graduated, turned up good reports and no scandals.)
So when Niou and Jones came together to blast Goldman, the Times came under fire too. Both candidates focused on Goldman in their prepared remarks, not mentioning the paper. Jones blasted his reported investments in Fox News, gun manufacturers, and pharmaceutical firms. Niou repeatedly mocked him as “our multimillionaire opponent,” dangerous to democracy. And both promoted their records. “On Friday I was proud to vote for the largest climate bill this country has ever seen,” Jones said, referring to the Inflation Reduction Act President Biden will soon sign. Niou touted her work getting $30 million allocated to fight anti-Asian and anti-Jewish hate crimes, and her leadership during the Covid crisis, which hit her district hard.
There were some awkward moments for the two progressive rivals. Though Jones touted his congressional record, he is not the incumbent in the race; he moved to the newly created district when his own was changed by redistricting. Niou boasted of her “six years” of service to the district in the state Assembly, noting that “my volunteers are my neighbors, are my friends, are my family here in Lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn,” in what seemed like a subtle dig at Jones, her brand-new neighbor. And of course their “Anyone But Goldman” slogan prompted an obvious question from reporters: Would either consider dropping out of the race to support the other, so progressives could rally around one leader? Both said no, without using the word.
But everyone, reporters included, could rally around second-guessing the Times endorsement. Responding to repeated questions, Jones got closer to criticizing the paper directly. “Look, I have no idea whether the generations of close family relationship between the Sulzbergers and the Goldmans had any role at all to play in the endorsement,” he said, putting on the record scattered reports that Goldman has social ties to the Sulzberger family, which still essentially runs the Times. To a question about whether she was “offended” that the paper didn’t even mention her, Niou said simply, “I’m used to being erased.”
It’s not clear whether the two progressives’ gambit will change anything. Goldman disputed the label “conservative,” but downplayed the attacks. A Times spokesperson termed its endorsements “merit-based independent decisions.” A new Emerson College poll, released hours after the press conference, showed Goldman with 22 percent support, Nieu with 17, and Jones with 13 percent. (That could turn up the heat on Jones to drop out and endorse Niou, though the election is only a week away.) But it’s obvious that the Times’ remarkably tone-deaf endorsement prompted this backlash. The backlash could backfire, giving Goldman even more media visibility than his millions in television ads and the Times’ backing could provide. The only thing we know is that it damaged the Times.