NYT columnist David Brooks resigns from think tank after failing to disclose financial interests

David Brooks, a “conservative” anti-Trump columnist for The New York Times, often critiqued the former president over ethical and transparency issues. Now, Brooks is embroiled in an ethical quandary of his own.

According to Buzzfeed News, Brooks has resigned from his position at the Aspen Institute after it was exposed that he had failed to properly disclose his financial compensation from that think tank for work that he had done for a non-profit community-building project known as Weave.

The ethical issue stems from the appearance of multiple conflicts of interest regarding Brooks’ promotion of various corporate backers of the Weave project without having fully disclosed the financial connections between those donors and the project or his own compensation in all of it.

The Times was “unaware” of the true nature

A spokesperson for The Times, Eileen Murphy, said in a statement to Buzzfeed that the newspaper had never been properly informed of Brooks’ paid position at the Aspen Institute, though it had been aware of his involvement with both the think tank as well as the Weave project.

“The current Opinion editors were unaware of this arrangement and have concluded that holding a paid position at Weave presents a conflict of interest for David in writing about the work of the project, its donors, or the broader issues it focuses on,” Murphy said.

“Going forward, The Times will disclose this unpaid relationship,” she added. “We are also in the process of adding disclosures to any earlier columns in which David refers to the work of Weave or its donors.”

Other failures to disclose financial connections

However, Buzzfeed noted that the failure to disclose his paid position at the Aspen Institute and Weave was not Brooks’ only disclosure oversight. He also failed to disclose in his writings or commentary other financial backers of the project that he was involved in, such as Facebook, the parents of billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, or even the NextDoor social media platform.

In fact, NextDoor had donated $25,000 to Weave in March 2020, a fact left unmentioned by Brooks as he promoted the app in a tweet and an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” around the same time.

Similarly, Brooks had recently written a blog post for Facebook and appeared in a video for the Walton Family Foundation, the billionaire family that owns Walmart, without fully disclosing the financial support both of those entities had provided in the past to Weave, of which he had a vested financial interest.

Digging the hole deeper

Perhaps making matters worse for himself, Brooks was offered the chance to come clean about the situation during a recent appearance on PBS’ “Newshour” with host Judy Woodruff, who asked him directly about the initial revelations put forward by Buzzfeed.

According to Buzzfeed, Brooks dishonestly asserted that full disclosure had been made since all of Aspen Institute’s donors were public and that the Aspen Institute had been fully transparent about who its donors were. However, Buzzfeed noted that Aspen Institute has only publicly revealed a partial list of donors since 2018, and only did so after the media outlet had pressured it to do so.

This is a pretty rich turn of events for a NeverTrump columnist who often derided the former president over ethical issues. It will be interesting to see if Brooks is ultimately compelled to resign or is cut loose from The Times over this.

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