New York Observer Editor Hired His Ice Cream Man to Defend Donald Trump


It’s a tough job defending a guy like Donald Trump, but somebody’s apparently gotta do it. In this case, that somebody is the editor of his son-in-law’s newspaper…and that editor’s ice cream man, Bill Gifford.

You read that right. A communications “standoff” has emerged in the wake of what looks a whole lot like a 7,000 word article doubling as a hit piece on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a defense of The Donald.

ICYMI, Schneiderman just happened to file a 2013 lawsuit against Trump alleging fraud on the part of his real estate “university” seminar—an event whose attendees could, in Trump’s own words, “just copy exactly what I’ve done and get rich.”

The freelance writer/ice cream man told The New York Times that “To even call me a journalist is a reach”, but that didn’t stop Observer EIC Ken Kurson from giving him the assignment. Gifford claims that he stopped working on it (and thereby lost the byline) thanks to a push by the editorial department to focus on discrediting Schneiderman, while an Observer spokesman claims that Schneiderman’s PR team “spooked” the guy.

The best quote comes from BuzzFeed, whose Andrew Kaczynski interviewed the ice cream man:

“The more I learned about him [Schneiderman] the more I liked him. … I knew they had their angle … I didn’t feel comfortable going forward.”

Well, then. The piece itself falls firmly in the TL;DR category, though you have to love the subhead:

“Will Righteous Eric bag big prey? Or Will Reckless Eric come undone?”

Objective journalism. We also found the criticism of Schneiderman’s “able” press operation, “which touts his achievements aggressively”, amusing:

A spokesman “pushed back on The Observer journalists”, suggesting that the piece was “intended to carry water for the publisher of this paper.”

Their defense of Trump’s real estate seminars is no less fun:

“…nearly everybody attending the Trump seminars enjoyed the experience. The Trump-sponsored website provides the 10,000 exit surveys of customers. Per the site’s name, only 2 percent rated the experience ‘unsatisfactory.’

As Mr. Trump put it to The Observer, ‘I bet Harvard has more than 2 percent unhappy grads.'”

A judge ruled that most of the suit’s claims were beyond the three-year statute of limitations, and:

“…both sides claimed victory. In the P.R. battle, however, Mr. Trump won by a large margin.”

The argument, then, is that Schneiderman was a little too ambitious with his filing and that he made a point of calling out a buffoonish public figure to bring more attention to himself, thereby furthering his political ambitions.

Are you convinced?

This is not exactly “must-read” news outside the New York media world, and we do wish people would pay less attention to Donald Trump. But it makes for a nice case study in journalistic ethics—and we can’t imagine that anyone who slogged through the whole thing made plans to attend Trump’s next “seminar.”

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.