New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman thinks overtly hostile or even ambiguous political language can inspire violence, and while he thinks Donald Trump is guilty of engaging in such talk, he ignored that articles in his paper often do the same.
In a column published Tuesday, Friedman tied the 1995 assassination of an Israeli politician to remarks earlier in the day by the Republican nominee.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen," wrote Friedman, "is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated."
Friedman was linking heated rhetoric in the Israeli election that cast Rabin as a "traitor" and a "Nazi" to a comment Trump made about Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally in North Carolina, where he said if elected, she would "essentially abolish" the Second Amendment."
Trump said that there would be "nothing" voters could do about it, but said, "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."
Critics called it a direct or ambiguous call for violence, while Trump said he was merely referring to the cohesive political power of the NRA and gun rights enthusiasts.
Friedman said the remark had the capacity to inspire vigilantes.
"But there are always people down the line who don't hear the caveats," he wrote, drawing a parallel to Rabin's assassination. "They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don't you? We kill them."
But in Times articles, Trump is regularly described as a "threat," "dangerous" and even indirectly compared to Nazi Germany, which is the kind of language Friedman said may incite violence.
"Is there any scarier nightmare than President Donald J. Trump in a tense international crisis, indignant and impatient, with his sweaty finger on the nuclear trigger?" wrote Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in March under the headline "Donald the Dangerous."
On comparing Trump to Hitler, University of Paris philosophy professor Justin E. H. Smith wrote in the Times, "[T]he fact that the comparison has any traction at all, that it is a recognizable part of our new political dialogue, and that the man at its center is not actively seeking to prove it wrong, shows how severe the current crisis is, and hints at how dark the future might get."
Times columnist Timothy Egan wrote in June that Trump's candidacy was an existential moment in history.
"They will remember, a century from now, who stood up to the tyrant Donald Trump and who found it expedient to throw out the most basic American values ..." he wrote. "They will remember, in classrooms and seminars, those who wrote Trump off as entertainment, a freak show and ratings spike, before he tried to muzzle a free press, and came for you."
Smarter Times, a blog dedicated to criticizing the New York Times, noted the apparent hypocrisy in Friedman's analysis of Trump's campaign rhetoric.
"[T]he illegitimate/threat to the nation/Nazi line of criticism is often made against Mr. Trump, in the columns of the Times itself," wrote the blog's editor Ira Stoll, "a fact that seems totally to have escaped Mr. Friedman."