NY Times interviews Gibbs, posts video

By Patricia Ann Speelman - pspeelman@sidneydailynews.com

MAPLEWOOD — National discourse around a guest editorial written by local farmer Christopher Gibbs and published in late July in the Sidney Daily News continues to grow.

Wednesday, Aug. 1, Gibbs was interviewed by the pretigious New York Times for a video that was posted Thursday at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/02/opinion/trump-trade-war-china-soybean-farmer.html.

Leah Varjacques, assistant producer in opinion video at the Times, conducted the interview and created the video. On the Times website, the headline reads, “Opinion: I Am a Soybean Farmer Hurt by Trump’s Trader War. I Can’t ‘Take It.’” The editorial intersperses video of Gibbs on his farm in Maplewood with President Donald Trump speaking at a Florida rally about how American farmers can “take” the hit his trade war with China has caused them.

A Times representative emailed the Daily News that “we produce op-eds in text and in video everyday with a diverse range of voices on the news cycle, as part of our mission statement.”

Gibbs said he had not been interviewed by the New York Times in the past. The discussion with Varjacques lasted about a half hour. The finished piece online is 1 minute, 59 seconds long.

“She was fair and didn’t ask anything I couldn’t respond to,” Gibbs told the Daily News, Thursday.

The column took Trump to task for offering a $12 billion aid package to farmers who have been hurt by tariffs imposed in a trade war with China and other countries. It was published in the Daily News, July 26.

Gibbs called the Trump administration’s aid package “hush money,” suggesting that the offer is the administration’s attempt to keep farmers from complaining about the 20 percent drop in soybean prices that has come since tariffs were imposed in the spring. He also said that puts the American farmer in the same position as a woman who is paid to keep quiet after having sex.

The column has been referred to in stories posted on several online news outlets with international readers. It has enjoyed active play on Twitter and Facebook feeds, has been a popular read on websites of newspapers in the Aim Media Midwest chain, which owns the Daily News, and has engendered several letters to the editor.

Gibbs acknowledged that most of the feedback he has received has been positive.

“However, I expect there to be dissension in a three different forms,” Gibbs said. “First are those acquaintances close to me who may disagree but are staying neutral out of mutual respect for our relationship. Second will be farmers and others who genuinely have a different point of view. All that is healthy. This is a difficult issue with no silver bullet answer so a healthy back and forth discourse is great.

“The final form of response is a bit darker but just part of the world we are in. I expect coordinated writings and blogs which emanate from a consulting firm or two who are supportive of the administration’s policies. They look around their universe of contacts and find folks who have similar interests; i.e., farmers. They will suggest talking points or even seed a draft letter to the editor, get the individual to sign their name to it, then distribute that letter to media editors. It keeps the bigger fish, in this case the administration, from being seen as ‘punching down’ to a family farmer. It actually works pretty slick. I get a kick out of those.”

By Patricia Ann Speelman


Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.