Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic‘s editor in chief, has attracted widespread attention this week with an anonymously sourced article alleging President Donald Trump had expressed derogatory views about members and veterans of the U.S. military.
But though he stands by the bombshell assertions in his latest piece, Goldberg recently conceded that criticism of such unnamed sources is justified, as reported by the Daily Caller.
“An incredible condemnation”
Trump has denied the accusations contained in Goldberg’s article, as have several current and former administration officials who accompanied him on the 2018 trip during which some of the offensive statements were allegedly made.
During an appearance on MSNBC this week, the author explained the rationale behind sources speaking to him only on the condition of anonymity.
As reported by the New York Post, his remarks came in response to host Chris Hayes’ line of questioning about the controversial nature of such a report.
“What you’re saying here is serious stuff,” the interviewer said. “It’s an incredible condemnation of the president’s character, I think just his humanity, honestly. What’s your response to that?”
Goldberg went on to assert that he and other reporters had been “pushing” their sources to identify themselves and speak out openly. He noted that an unwritten “code” demanded that some officials not speak out in a manner that might interfere with the electoral process or lead to political retaliation by Trump and his supporters.
“It is a reasonable question to ask why people who have had direct exposure to Donald Trump, who know what Donald Trump has said, who know what Democrat Trump has done, won’t simply come out and say it,” Goldberg continued.
“Moral ambiguities and complications”
While clarifying that the identities of anonymous sources are known to the journalists citing them, Goldberg said he shares the “view that it’s not good enough” to hide behind that cloak.
“But, you know, like other reporters, I’m always balancing out the moral ambiguities and complications of anonymous soucing with a public’s right to know,” Goldberg added.
While reporters have always relied on anonymous sources for very limited and specific purposes, Trump described Goldberg as a “con man” for his piece featuring multiple unnamed individuals.
Without the ability to identify and cross-examine those sources, it remains difficult for Goldberg to answer his critics.