‘The president has some bones to pick with the American media,’ read a piece by the NYT‘s media editor Ben Smith, published this week. ‘So president Emmanuel Macron of France called me on Thursday afternoon from his gilded office in the Élysée Palace to drive home a complaint’.
The interview made it sound as though Macron, infuriated by the hostility of the Gray Lady, had taken it upon himself to suddenly phone Smith up out of the blue to give him a piece of his mind. For those sticking up for press freedom, it sounded worrying: a head of state calling an editor to voice his disapproval about a newspaper’s coverage. Some made the comparison to Donald Trump, suggesting that it appeared as though Macron was trying to emulate the outgoing president in his dealings with the media.
But is that right? The reality is slightly different, according to sources close to the Élysée Palace. A piece published in L’Opinion suggests that Macron did not phone up Smith spontaneously but that the interview was, in fact, arranged a fortnight earlier. ‘Smith was the one who solicited the president,’ a source close to Macron told the paper. Given that Macron is somewhat busy, having infuriated Muslims around the world all while dealing with France’s second Covid wave, perhaps this is one battle it would be wise for Macron to drop.