Arthur Sulzberger praises Jill Abramson’s commitment to the First Amendment

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Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger took to a Manhattan podium this evening to praise the executive editor he fired last week for her commitment to the First Amendment.

"Jill Abramson, a powerful and outspoken advocate for a free press," he told his audience. "She has been one of the most forceful voices in challenging the secrecy of the Obama White House and the initiation of criminal leak investigations. I will always admire Jill’s commitment to this issue and be grateful to her many contributions to the journalism of The New York Times."

His remarks came as he was awarded a prize by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit that provides legal advice and advocacy to journalists, in a ceremony held at the Pierre Hotel's ballroom on Fifth Avenue and 61st Street Monday evening.

Earlier today, Abramson had the podium as she delivered a convocation speech for Wake Forest University that was live-streamed by numerous cable-news outlets in hopes that she would lash out against the institution that had recently cast her out, sparking a media frenzy that has raised questions about gender in the workplace, equal pay, and the Times' leadership.

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Abramson did not appear to take that opportunity, instead stressing the Times' commitment to straight reporting and fair play, in a speech praised by many in her old newsroom.

Sulzberger had issued a series of statements and memos in the hours and days following Sulzberger's firing defending the paper's decision to let her go, especially after Ken Auletta in The New Yorker suggested that Abramson's inquiries about whether her pay had been less than some male predecessors and inferiors had precipitated her firing.

Sulzberger was introduced by Donald Graham, chief executive of Graham Holdings and scion of the Graham family which, much like the Sulzbergers, had long controlled a major national broadsheet, The Washington Post, before agreeing to sell its interest in the newspaper to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in a move that led many to wonder how long the Sulzbergers would stick with The New York Times Company.

Before Sulzberger took the podium, special guest speaker Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, had delivered a speech in which she criticized President Barack Obama for shutting out reporters and not answering questions, and for using a taxpayer-funded photographer to release images of events where reporters are not allowed.

She said the “most used” rubber stamp in Bill de Blasio’s mayoral office is the one that says “closed to the press.”

"We must make fighting for access as important as the number of twitter followers and prizes on the wall," she concluded, and was met with a standing ovation.