Emails Show New York Times Collaborating with State Government to Target Orthodox Jews

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The New York Times collaborated with the New York State government to produce its now-infamous series of stories targeting Orthodox Jewish schools, according to over 800 pages of emails obtained by Breitbart News.

The Times’ Eliza Shapiro — self-described “serious reporter who doesn’t pull punches” — is seen in the massive volume of communications, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, discussing with the New York State Education Department how “we” can craft comment for the first story launching the Times’ series of articles targeting yeshivas, and giving the government almost a full business-week longer than the schools to comment. Emails also show she worked with the government to direct blame for the Times’ allegations, and coordinated timing on publishing with a vote to regulate the religious schools.

The Times’ first story that launched the anti-religious crusade, published in September, alleges Hasidic students “[know] nothing” and grow up “barely [able] to support their own families.” The story was revealed by Breitbart to have been carefully curated by omitting relevant information, shunning sources directly involved with the schools, and declining to publish pertinent on-the-record statements — producing a weapon used by secular political interest groups to attack the Orthodox Jewish community’s most sacred institutions.

As Breitbart previously reported, the “investigation” dropped in what appeared to be unbelievable timing, the day before the Board of Regents held a unanimous vote, without debate, to allow state functionaries heavier say in the education of Orthodox children. Those children happen to be of parents vehemently opposed to the social justice curriculum that has been injected into most other New York schools.

Now, newly obtained emails show the Times working with the New York State Education Department in close collaboration to produce the story with maximum political impact.

In one correspondence, Shapiro is seen working with the government to produce the state’s comment on the reporting, with almost a week longer to respond than the private religious schools being maligned.

 

“Hi! Hope all is well with you. We are aiming to publish the yeshiva investigation late next week and I wanted to walk you through it on a high level and we can talk about what might make sense for comment. I’m flexible today if you have some time. Thanks so much,” reporter Eliza Shapiro emailed then-Education Department Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs, Emily DeSantis, on August 29. The subject line of that email was “Walking you through the yeshiva story.”

 

 

Seven minutes later, DeSantis replied, setting up a call later that afternoon.

The yeshivas named in the story were contacted for comment four days later with a summary of the report. The schools were not offered to “walk you through it on a high level,” nor to “talk about what might make sense for comment,” according to emails provided by some of those schools to Breitbart.

 

In another email, a few days later on September 6, Shapiro writes to DeSantis again with a “fact checking question,” where she struggles with who is to blame for her central claim that yeshivas are not meeting state education standards. She opens the email telling the government public relations deputy she is “hoping you can help.”

 

 

“Good morning Emily, I have another fact checking question I’m hoping you can help with. We are planning to state that the yeshivas we mention appear to be violating the substantial equivalency law, based on our findings. We understand that the state constitutional guarantee to a basic education actually puts the onus on the state, rather than the schools, to enforce the law, so in that case the state violates the law. But I wasn’t sure whether it’s the state or the schools that can violate the SE law? Thanks so much for any guidance,” Shapiro writes.

A few hours later, DeSantis replies that the state “supervises” the enforcement of education provisions on non-public schools, and then proceeds to explain that the rest of Shapiro’s claim about “basic education” is confused with a different law, only pertaining to public schools.

“Your reference to ‘a basic education’ appears to refer to a separate, constitutional obligation owed only to public school students. In a 1995 decision, The Court of Appeals held that the education clause of the New York Constitution requires that a ‘sound basic education’ be provided to public school students (Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State, 86 N.Y.2d 307, 317 [1995]; N.Y. Const. Art. XI, § 1). New York State’s liability for failure to ensure that school districts offer a ‘sound basic education’ is a separate legal issue [State substantial equivalency law],” DeSantis told Shapiro in an email obtained by Breitbart.

 

Shapiro replies, “Yep, sorry, should have been more clear. I was just using the basic education law as an example. Thanks for the context though, it helps us clarify.” However, at no point in the final copy does the Times “clarify” that point for the reader.

 

 

The final copy of the Times story maintained the premise that the Jewish private schools violate “basic education,” ignoring DeSantis’ explanation of the definition, and also ignoring Shapiro’s own point that the state would ostensibly be responsible for enforcement.

“[A] New York Times investigation has found … that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education,” the Times wrote in its final copy about the schools. The story did not mention that “basic education” is a legal term that does not apply to non-public schools, which was addressed by DeSantis in the “fact checking” request.

 

In another email in the 862 page stack obtained by Breitbart, Shapiro asks the government flack, “for my planning,” when the “*final*” Board of Regents vote on regulating yeshivas will take place.

 

 

“Just for my planning, on background etc, do you anticipate the *final* vote on the regs will take place on Monday or Tues?,” Shapiro emails DeSantis on September 8 at 10:54 AM.

Two minutes later, at 10:56 AM, DeSantis replies, “P12 Committee Monday. Full Board Tuesday as part of the P12 Committee report vote.”

Earlier that week, on September 6, DeSantis requested an update on when the story would run, which Shapiro replied to 3 minutes later to let the Empire State staffer know, “We are expecting it to run online Friday, but will let you know if that changes. Likely in print Sunday.” New York State Department of Health Deputy Director of Communications JP O’Hare and then-Senior Media Relations Specialist for the New York State Education Department Jeanne Beattie are also copied on the editorial update.

Amid the public pressure resulting from the funhouse mirror “news report” by the Times, the board unanimously decided to impose state edicts on the schools to control curricula. The state and city governments are now hustling the private religious institutions to incorporate secular curricula as part of “substantial equivalency” requirements. Some of the courses being pushed on the schools — which are attended for an education of piety and traditional values — include “hygiene,” “highway safety and traffic regulation.” Demands on the schools, which service roughly 40,000 families just in Brooklyn, are made under threat of shutting them down and declaring their students truants.

According to a letter delivered to Brooklyn yeshivas in November, submitted in a court case between yeshivas and the State Department of Education, the city, under the state’s direction, is demanding a secular curriculum be instituted in the schools, and to dictate the recruitment and hiring process of teachers. That letter was the second one sent, to move goalposts after schools were found to have met the initial, more broad criteria demanded by the city a month prior.

In other emails obtained by Breitbart, Times Metro reporter Brian Rosenthal is seen engaging in a bizarre, extended back-and-forth with Beattie, where he profusely apologizes for requesting data on the schools he is reporting on in his “Times analysis” — and then requires assistance from the government PR team about how to read the excel sheet the data is presented on.

 

“Now you are going to kill me,” begins one correspondence obtained by Breitbart.

 

 

That conversation follows an email, not appearing to be in response to anything, where he just writes to say he heard Beattie was “not feeling well today. I’m sorry.”

The Times announced in February that it won a George Polk Award for its “journalism” about Hasidic Yeshivas. As Breitbart previously reported, the Times did not establish communication relevant to reporting with at least two schools the initial story is based on — titled, “In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush With Public Money” — until days before publication, with request for comment on the final product, which it spent over a year to produce.

Breitbart identified two instances of relevant sources to the story speaking to the Times and having their statements disregarded. Breitbart also learned of one instance where the Times accused two schools of the exact same claim of corporal punishment, word for word, and two instances where request for comment was responded to but never published. It would appear that virtually the entire story was based on the testimony from a secular-Jewish activist group, called “Yaffed.”

The founder of the group, as Breitbart previously reported, hosted a panel discussing how a “basic” religious education ought to include “a sound sex education and knowledge of diversity.”

 

The Times was angling for a Pulitzer Prize for the series antagonizing Orthodox Jews, but ultimately did not get it.

 

The Times did not respond when reached for comment on the nature of its reporters’ relationship with members of the state government, and how much collaboration is typically involved between its employees and government publicists.

The Hochul administration is using yeshiva regulations as a cudgel against the Hasidic community, which turned on Democrats in the last gubernatorial election, following the action taken against their children’s schools, according to a report in the Gothamist.

“As Zeldin made repeated stops in Hasidic neighborhoods, the Hochul administration was keeping close watch: Those who levied especially bad faith attacks on the governor, the source said, may find themselves cut out of future discussions about yeshiva oversight,” the article says in a stunning revelation, attributed to a person in the governor’s office who did not have permission to speak on the issue.

Emma-Jo Morris is the Politics Editor at Breitbart News.


8 COMMENTS

  1. If there is anything we learned in the last few years, whether in the United States, Israel, and basically across the world is that if you’re a leftist, progressive, anarchist, liberal you can say what you want even if it a blatant lie, cancel anyone that dares stand up to your self-righteousness, cause mayhem and bedlam, riot peacefully and everyone will bow down to you in “shame.” But G-D forbid if someone who has right wing views will use the wrong pronoun, ‘hurt’ the feelings of a misguided gender person, misspeak, disagree or the worst thing be a Trump supporter. Then you are part of a cult movement, a white supremacist. I hope the yeshivos take the NY Tuma to court over this and sue them for every penny they have.

  2. we must constantly be vigilant from attacks and lies by the hate obsessed hate peddling odious founder of yaffed thank you for revealing his prust sick agenda

  3. The Brisker Rav, ztl, said that whenever there are gezeiros against us, the source of the gezeiros comes not from the other side but rather it’s only our weakness in that area that gives them the power to act against us, and if we could fix whatever that weakness is that would take away the source of their power and the situation would correct itself. I’m not sure just how to apply that here but it seems likely that rather than focusing in the prejudices and failings of the other other side we should be focusing on what fixes we can make internally in our educational system to take away their power to act against us.

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