Maggie Haberman: What does she know and when will she tell us?

Maggie Haberman: What does she know and when will she tell us?
Image via CNN.

Every month I receive “Journalists in Trouble,” a dispatch from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), an organization based in Prague that “promote[s] democratic values by providing accurate, uncensored news and open debate in countries where a free press is threatened and disinformation is pervasive.”

The monthly missive lists RFE/RL journalists that have been detained, imprisoned or made the ultimate sacrifice while reporting in repressive regimes where freedom of press is mostly nonexistent.

September’s edition includes the story of Ihar Losik, who is serving 15-years in Belarus in “a hard labor colony” on government-fabricated charges of “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and “preparation for participation in riots.”

Andrey Kuznechyk is in the same labor colony in Belarus. This June, “Kuznechyk was sentenced to six years in a maximum-security prison on charges of ‘creating or participating in an extremist organization.’”

These courageous journalists risk their careers, their economic futures and their very lives to expose government corruption and other hard truths the world needs to hear. Contrast their valor with some U.S. journalists who, even with the protection of our First Amendment, would rather withhold valuable reporting for a later date, a date that often corresponds to the day their new book is released and they cash their mammoth publisher’s advance.

Exhibit A: The New York Times star reporter, and CNN political analyst, Maggie Haberman, queen of the Donald Trump exclusives, and author of “Confidence Man,” the soon-to-be bestseller on, you guessed it, The New York Times Bestseller list.

Excerpts of Haberman’s 608-page tome, have already been “leaked” to the Washington Post and just about everywhere. The quoted passages regarding Trump are startling and incriminating. But Haberman, the daughter of former NYT journalist Clyde Haberman and PR maven Nancy Haberman, withheld some of the most damning parts from the public.

For the record, Nancy Haberman is an executive vice president for the public relations firm Rubenstein Associates, a powerful public relations firm that has represented the twice-impeached, disgraced former president Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. According to a 2017 article in Elle, “Nancy worked on projects for Trump's business but says she never met him.”

As far back as a year ago Maggie knew that Trump had taken documents from the White House to his lair in Mar-a-Lago. But she never reported it, instead hoarding that tasty morsel—and others—to enhance her book’s salability. So much for heeding the reporter’s credo of “afflicting the comfortable, comforting the afflicted.”

Haberman’s coziness to Trump is problematic and is contrary to standards that any first-year journalism student is taught in Reporting 101. That is, you do not befriend a source. A Google search of “photo of Haberman and Trump” shows the pair grinning like Cheshire cats in the Oval Office, the president’s arm around her shoulder in a tight embrace. The picture is indicative of the incestuous Washington D.C. relationship between politicians and reporters. No wonder the public holds the media and politicians with equal distain.

So why did the NYT not pull Haberman off the Trump beat?

In a post on SubStack, titled “Media Corruption at the ‘Paper of Record,’” Steve Schmidt writes, “Any news organization with a functioning ethical compass would have understood that Maggie Haberman had a conflict with regard to covering Trump because of her family’s long-standing financial connections and relationship to the Kushner family. The New York Times didn’t see it that way. They saw opportunity. They saw a chance to take the inside lane, and make an access play.”

In Maggie Hagerman’s case the NYT has to be aware of how her connection with Trump has benefits her reporting. But the too-big-to-fail Gray Lady with its phalanx of attorneys, PR flacks and deep pockets deflects criticism easily. Instead, its higher-ups and her colleagues continue to cheer her exclusives because, well, as Springsteen sings, “we take care of our own.”

Hagerman’s book will fly off the shelves, movie rights will be auctioned off for six or seven figures and her relationship with the disgraced businessman will continue even with Trump recently calling her a “creep.” After all, what’s an occasional spat between old friends?

Stephen J. Lyons is the author of five books of essays and journalism. His forthcoming book, “Searching for A Way Home: Misadventures with Misanthropes and Family,” will be published next summer.

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