The New York Times gives its editorial page to Trump supporters for a day, sparking a debate

A supporter stands by paintings of US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as Trump's motorcade passes in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Dec 10, 2017.
A supporter stands by paintings of US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as Trump's motorcade passes in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Dec 10, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - The New York Times did away with its op-ed page on Thursday (Jan 18) temporarily to run a full page of letters from supporters of the president, a move that comes amid a tense climate in the country between the media and President Donald Trump, who has constantly assailed supposed biases at many publications since well before he was elected.

The Times' publication of the letters predictably set off a cascade of criticism from some liberal voices on Twitter.

"In the interest of fairness, the New York Times gave its editorial page over to Republican partisans, a few racists, and people you can fairly describe as delusional," wrote Jamelle Bouie, Slate's chief political correspondent.

In a paragraph that accompanied the letters, the New York Times noted that its editorial board has been sharply critical of the president.

"In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don't, we wanted to let Mr. Trump's supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close," it read.

The newspaper said that it would follow it up with a feature of letters from Trump voters who had since become disillusioned and others reacting to the move.

"The president of the United States is a racist," noted a Times editorial with the headline, "Donald Trump Flushes Away America's Reputation," last week after Trump referred to African nations as "s***holes." The newspaper published the letters from Trump supporters online on Wednesday night.

They included the accounts of people like Dane Davis, a 28-year-old from Newton Falls, Ohio, who said he was upset by failed free trade policies of both Democrats and Republicans; Margaret Tunnell, a self-described "Women's libber" from Alamo, California, who cheered the "mortally wounded" Obamacare, and Emily Robertson of Austin, who cheered the president's court appointments, tax cuts, and support for Israel.

"So far I am thrilled with his performance," wrote Ellen Mackler, of New Haven, Connecticut. "Numerous reasons, but here are a few: recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital; letting the generals crush ISIS; stronger plans to prevent North Korea and Iran from using nuclear weapons; getting out of biased United Nations organizations; and respect for the flag and the rule of law."

Some defended the decision, circulating a Politico op-ed from the summer that the Times' "Op-Ed Page Is Not Your Safe Space."

Time correspondent Charlotte Alter wrote that "these NYT letters from Trump supporters are actually very revealing and well worth your time."

The practice of clearing space for the views of Trump supporters in the country's newspapers and other news media has become a contentious subject of debate in recent months.

Some critics on the left have criticised the practice as giving disproportionate space to the supporters of a president with historically low approval ratings, a practice that many feel was not replicated during other recent presidencies.

The president's supporters wrote in about things like the tax cut, the weakening of ISIS, the appointment of conservative judges, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and their dislike for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

"I voted against Hillary Clinton more than I voted for Donald Trump," wrote Jason Peck, of Holtsville, New York. "That said, President Trump has exceeded my wildest expectations. Yes, he is embarrassing. Yes, he picks unnecessary fights. But he also pushed tax reform through, has largely defeated ISIS in Iraq, has named a number of solid conservative judges, has prioritized American citizens over illegal immigrants, has gotten us out of several bad international agreements, has removed a number of wasteful regulations, is putting real pressure on North Korea and Iran, has reined in a number of out-of-control agencies, and so on and so on."