SANDRA SMITH (CO-ANCHOR): The New York Times under fire after a leaked transcript from a town hall meeting between the executive editor and its employees showing the publication discussing the evolution of how to cover the president. Jill Abramson is the author of the book Merchants Of Truth and the former executive editor of The New York Times. And she joins us now live. Jill, good morning to you and thank you for being here.
JILL ABRAMSON (FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES): Oh, thanks for having me.
SMITH: It's great to have the ability to chat with you in the wake of several controversies that The New York Times is facing. But first, if you could, just comment on your thoughts after your time in the newsroom on how the paper is covering the news today.
ABRAMSON: Well, I think that Dean Baquet, the executive editor who presided over that internal meeting, is really doing a brilliant job. And I think under circumstances in terms of covering the White House that were more difficult than when I was executive editor, because let's face it: He is criticized all the time by you and Fox News and by conservatives for being way too hard on Trump and being biased against him. And yet its readership, which is quite liberal, wants the paper to be even tougher on President Trump. And in the meeting, I was impressed because I thought Dean Baquet had it exactly right in explaining to his staff that the job of The New York Times is first and foremost to be independent and to hold power accountable and to report the news accurately --
JON SCOTT (CO-ANCHOR): But essentially he told --
ABRAMSON: -- and, you know, not everybody inside the Times was thrilled about hearing that. But I think that's exactly right.
SCOTT: Essentially he told reporters and staffers that we started -- I hope you can hear me -- that we started, you know, trying to cover the Trump / Russia collusion narrative and that's kind of gone away. So now we are going to cover President Trump as a racist. Is that essentially what he says, would you agree with that?
ABRAMSON: Yes, no, I think you mischaracterized what he said. What he was explaining is that the paper had been set up to cover a deep investigative story out of Washington. And that now they were pivoting to coverage of a general election where the job of The New York Times is to be out in the country figuring out how people feel and what they think. It was not telling people get ready to cover a racist administration. That is a complete mischaracterization of what he was saying.
SMITH: But isn't that a characterization --
ABRAMSON: I've read that transcript twice.