The hits just keep coming on New York Observer's hit piece about New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. The bulk of the article focuses on Schneiderman's lawsuit against Donald Trump's Trump University and all the reasons why that lawsuit is wrong and bad and unfairly targets Trump. Many of those reasons echo statements Trump has made in his defense.
The thing is, the Observer is owned by Jared Kushner. Kushner is married to Trump's daughter. Though the paper maintains that it practiced "fair, unbiased journalism throughout the reporting and editing of this story," it sure doesn't look that way.
Then BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski found the freelancer who was first assigned to write the Trump article but bowed out. The Observer said he was "spooked" by Schneiderman's communications director. But the freelancer, William Gifford, told BuzzFeed:
'They wanted to go at it a certain way and I wanted to go at it objectively,' Gifford told BuzzFeed. Gifford added the article was 'definitely meant to be negative on Schneiderman.' Gifford said, 'The more I learned about him [Schneiderman] the more I liked him. … I knew they had their angle … I didn't feel comfortable going forward.'
And then tonight, the New York Times' Ravi Somaiya revealed that Gifford was not a journalist but the manager of an ice cream shop (shoppe?) Observer editor Ken Kurson often patronized. Kurson walked in one day and offered Gifford the freelance assignment despite Gifford's lack of experience. This is strange because usually several-thousand word cover stories are given to people with a lot of experience or at the very least people who are actual journalists. It's not like Kurson wouldn't be able to find one of those in this city or even his newsroom, so recruiting from a New Jersey ice cream shop seems like an unnecessarily desperate move.
Kurson, a close friend of Kushner, was very much anti-Schneiderman, Gifford said, calling him a "bad guy" and sending him several negative articles until Gifford decided the article was "basically a smear job" and quit. The Observer found another freelancer, based in Arizona, to write the piece.
Both Kurson and Trump have denied that Trump's connection to the Observer had anything to do with the tone of the article. Kurson said that his choice of an ice cream shop manager to write big feature for the paper was motivated solely out of the desire to give a young writer his first opportunity. He said he didn't recall sending Gifford negative articles about Schneiderman or telling him to write an anti-Schneiderman piece.
The Observer also wrote a takedown piece about New York Times' editorial page editor earlier this month. That was not written by an ice cream shop employee but by Ken Kurson himself.
Somaiya added on Twitter that Kurson usually ordered strawberry or raspberry ice cream with "lots of toppings."