The immediate trigger for Sulzberger’s memorandum was a Friday column written by Times opinion writer Bret Stephens, “The 1619 Chronicles.” Stephens is one of the Times’ leading columnists. An anti-Trump conservative, he pointed to the absurdity of many of the Project’s historical claims as well as its disregard for basic journalistic principles. Stephens concluded that the 1619 Project was “a thesis in search of evidence.”
Stephens quoted at length from historian James McPherson’s interview with the World Socialist Web Site, to which he provided a link. In early September 2019, the WSWS produced the first major exposure of the racialist falsifications of the 1619 Project, a few weeks after its rollout amidst an unprecedented media blitz. The WSWS followed this with interviews with scholars who dismantled the 1619 Project’s major claims—McPherson, Victoria Bynum, James Oakes, Gordon Wood, Dolores Janiewski, Adolph Reed, Jr., Richard Carwardine, and Clayborne Carson.
The Stephens column brought into the open the bitter conflict raging at the Times over its creation and promotion of the 1619 Project.