January 31, 2017

The words “Muslim-majority country” are permitted in the Wall Street Journal, Editor-in-Chief Gerry Baker told his staff Tuesday, hours after being quoted telling editors to remove the phrase.

“There is no ban on the phrase ‘Muslim-majority country,'” Baker said. “But we should always be careful that this term is not offered as the only description of the countries covered under the ban.”

Baker was responding to an earlier report by BuzzFeed, which on Tuesday published excerpts from an email he sent to editors instructing them to avoid calling countries targeted by President Trump’s executive order “seven majority Muslim countries.”

“It’s very loaded,” Baker wrote. “The reason they’ve been chosen is not because they’re majority Muslim but because they’re on the list of countries Obama identified as countries of concern.”

Baker’s guidance reportedly rankled some at the Wall Street Journal newsroom —  one source at the Journal told Politico that Baker was going “out of his way to whitewash” the newspaper’s coverage.

In his memo responding to coverage, Baker urged Wall Street Journal journalists to “prominently present the fact the immigration suspension applies to seven Muslim-majority countries along with the administration’s rationale: an effort to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S.”

“We have covered and will cover the Trump administration aggressively,” Baker said. “In addition to making some changes in last night’s story, I also asked, as I often do, for the same article to include more voices of the critics of this policy.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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