In Trump Trial, Press Coverage of Jurors Draws Partisan Reactions

Opening arguments in former President Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial will not start until next week, but media coverage of the proceedings has already been met with partisan furor.

Jury selection, which began on Monday, produced a full 12-person panel by Thursday and ended Friday with the selection of alternates. Over the course of the week, many conservatives claimed that the selection process had been rigged against Mr. Trump, while some progressives argued that the press was releasing too many details about possible jurors, putting them in potential danger.

Journalists and commentators covering the trial, being held in Manhattan, face a tricky balancing act: inform the public about one of the most consequential cases in recent memory while not putting its participants in harm’s way.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, has ordered that the names of the potential and selected jurors remain confidential. The proceedings on Friday kicked off with a warning from a court official to reporters and members of the public attending the trial to follow courtroom rules around filming, photographs and technology.

Several news outlets, including The New York Times, have published some information about the lives of the people in the jury pool, such as their profession and the neighborhood where they live.

Jesse Watters, a prime-time host on Fox News, went further than many. On Tuesday, he showed footage of one prospective juror who had been excused. The woman explained that she had told the judge that she could be unbiased, then explained that “it’s very difficult for anyone really in this country to come to this without prior opinions.”

Mr. Watters then said: “Show me a juror who says they can be unbiased towards Trump, and I’ll show you a liar.”

He followed the segment by going through each of seven jurors who had so far been chosen, disclosing features such as their race, attire, hair and skin tone, as well as their favorite outdoor activities, musical preferences and in one case, a specific employer. He described the second juror in depth: her educational background, her current profession, her romantic partner’s profession, her neighborhood, her marital and parental status and where she gets her news.

“I’m not so sure about Juror No. 2,” Mr. Watters said.

On Thursday, Justice Merchan dismissed the juror after she expressed concerns that her identity had been exposed. The judge instructed reporters to “simply apply common sense” and withhold certain details about jurors, including where they work. (Legal experts questioned the order, saying that information reported in open court is a matter of public record; lawyers from The Times and other news outlets are expected to seek clarification.)

Other commentary about the jury and trial has sometimes been misleading. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump posted a quote on his Truth Social online platform that he attributed to Mr. Watters, which described some prospective jurors as “undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge.” Prosecutors argued in court on Thursday that the post, and others, amounted to a violation of the gag order imposed on Mr. Trump that bars him from attacking jurors, witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and relatives of the judge.

On platforms like X and Telegram, some high-profile Trump supporters urged conservatives to “sabotage” and “derail” the “show trial” by infiltrating the jury. Others, like Laura Loomer, repeatedly amplified claims on X that the trial was rigged.

Ms. Loomer, a far-right activist who describes herself as an investigative journalist, reposted an unfounded accusation that Olivia Nuzzi, a correspondent for New York magazine, was pressured by Democrats into removing a post that said a prospective juror’s child worked for a top Democrat in Congress. Ms. Nuzzi responded on X that she “determined on my own that it was best to delete it” following Justice Merchan’s direction to preserve jurors’ anonymity.

“Nobody even complained,” Ms. Nuzzi wrote. “I don’t take direction from any government or political officials.”

Alina Habba, a lawyer who represented Mr. Trump during a defamation case he recently lost to the writer E. Jean Carroll, made several media appearances this week. While being interviewed by Benny Johnson, a vocal Trump supporter and a former Buzzfeed politics writer fired over plagiarism, Ms. Habba nodded and echoed his description of the jury as “absolutely ratchet.” She suggested that lawyers in the current trial were not allowed to ask jurors whether they worked for the Biden administration or campaign. (The jury questionnaire asks jurors to reveal their current and prior employer and whether they or anyone close to them have ever worked or volunteered for a group, attended an event, signed up for a newsletter or followed an online account that was anti-Trump.)

Earlier in the week, Justice Merchan delayed a ruling on whether to pause the trial on May 17 so that Mr. Trump could attend his son Barron’s high school graduation, saying that his decision will depend on the trial’s progress. Mr. Trump said in an email to supporters that “the heartless thugs are forcing me to skip my son’s graduation” and wrote on Truth Social that he was “being prohibited” from going to the event.

Some conservative personalities treated Mr. Trump’s claims as fact. The liberal media watchdog Media Matters noted that several pundits on Fox suggested without evidence that the judge would try to have Mr. Trump arrested if he attended the graduation, despite Fox News reporting that the judge had yet to rule on the matter.

Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA, said on his podcast that “Donald Trump should defy the New York judge order and go to Barron’s graduation.”

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