New York Times op-ed’s prose points to one person in particular: Jon Huntsman

By | September 7, 2018

William Saletan writes:

Who wrote the anonymous op-ed against President Trump in Wednesday’s New York Times? All we know for certain is what the Times disclosed: that it’s a “senior official in the Trump administration.” But the most likely author, based on the op-ed’s content and style, is the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman is an obvious suspect for several reasons. The article’s themes are classic Huntsman: effusive about conservative policies, blunt about low character. In 2016, he made the same points for and against Trump. The topic that gets the most space and detail in the piece is Huntsman’s current area, Russia. (As Slate’s Fred Kaplan points out, Trump has been circumventing and undermining Huntsman.) The prose, as in Huntsman’s speeches and interviews, is flamboyantly erudite. The tone, like Huntsman’s, is pious. And the article’s stated motive—“Americans should know that there are adults in the room”—matches a letter that Huntsman wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune in July. In the letter, Huntsman, responding to a columnist who thought the ambassador should resign rather than keep working for Trump, explained that public servants such as himself were dutifully attending to the nation’s business.

Like other suspects, Huntsman has issued a statement to deflect accusations that he wrote the Times op-ed. But the statement—actually just a tweet—doesn’t come from Huntsman. It comes from the spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The full text reads, “Amb Huntsman: Come to find, when you’re serving as the U.S. envoy in Moscow, you’re an easy target on all sides. Anything sent out by me would have carried my name. An early political lesson I learned: never send an anonymous op-ed.”

That’s a non-denial denial. The Times has already said that the author’s “identity is known to us.” So the piece can’t have been sent anonymously. It must have carried the author’s name. Which means the statement from Huntsman’s spokesperson is technically accurate, even if he wrote the piece. And no matter what he says, he’s still the most likely suspect—at least until somebody else steps forward to claim responsibility—because the piece is full of telltale words and phrases. Here are some of them. [Continue reading…]

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