I figured out a long time ago that David Brooks, one of the alleged conservative voices among the New York Times’ swollen gang of knee-jerk Angry Leftists, was a hypocrite and fraud with barely a hint of genuine integrity. Now comes the proof.
In 2019, Brooks introduced Times readers to his vision of “Weavers,” a movement to fight social isolation by “building community and weaving the social fabric” across the nation. In a Times column called “A Nation of Weavers,” Brooks wrote that he had launched Weave at the Aspen Institute, a prominent think tank based in Washington, DC. Brooks went on to author several columns to praise and promote Weave. He also had other columns mentioning, positively, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, andFacebook’s products and activities.
Facebook, unreported by Brooks or his paper, had contributed $250,000 to the Aspen Institute to help launch Weave in 2018.
Now, thanks to Buzzfeed, we learn that Brooks has been drawing a second salary for his work on Weave, meaning that he is being paid at least in part through the largess of Facebook. He has not mentioned any of this in his columns. Thus, when David Brooks promoted the good work of Weave, he is using his Times column to do work that he is being paid for by someone else, and secretly advancing the interests of Facebook and the Aspen Institute, not because the columnist objectively has concluded that they warrant it, but because he benefits financially when they benefit.
The Aspen Institute has confirmed that as chair of the Weave project Brooks is a staff member at the Aspen Institute. Brooks thus has a second salaried position funded by donations from companies and wealthy patrons that Times readers never were told about. Some may have even decided to contribute themselves, since that nice, smart, ethical David Brooks said such positive things about Weave’s work, based purely on his typically brilliant non-partisan analysis.
A Times spokesperson didn’t answer BuzzFeed News’ queries about whether the paper was aware Brooks was taking a salary for his work on Weave, and wouldn’t say if the Times knew that Weave took money from Facebook through Weave. These are separate issues from Brooks’ deception of his readers. If Brooks was deceiving his employer too, then that is grounds for dismissal. If the Times was complicit in the deception and Brooks deceived Times readers with the paper’s consent, that means the Times is unethical in the extreme.
But we knew that already.
Buzzfeed says that the revelations have “raised questions about the columnist’s conflicts of interest.” No it hasn’t! There is no question at all: this is a clear, major, unforgivable conflict of interest. It’s not complicated. Brooks had an unavoidable obligation to let readers know every time he wrote about Weave or praised (or neglected to criticize) Facebook and Zuckerberg that he was to some extent compromised by his own commitments and financial interests. That he didn’t was dishonest, and serious breach of loyalty and trust.
This is an ethics test for the Times, which regularly flunks them. Brooks has proven that he is untrustworthy, and that his pose as an ethics guru is a sham. He needs to go.