Apparently it’s tougher than it looks to find editorial writers without a history of racially charged tweets, judging from the recent experience of The New York Times.
Six months after giving the heave-ho to an opinion writer over her insensitive social media comments, the New York Times is standing by Sarah Jeong, its newly hired lead technology scribe on the editorial side, despite the racist skeletons in her Twitter feed.
In a statement, the newspaper chalked up her anti-white blasts, such as “white men are bulls—,” as a reaction to “frequent online harassment.”
“Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment,” The Times said. “For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.”
Our statement in response to criticism of the hiring of Sarah Jeong. pic.twitter.com/WryIgbaoqg
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) August 2, 2018
Her hiring was met Wednesday with a spate of criticism over more than a dozen hostile tweets, most from 2014, in which she referred to “[d]umbass f—ing white people” and declared, “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.”
Meet the newest member of the New York Times editorial board. I’d say that these tweets were part of her resumè when she applied for the job. pic.twitter.com/CLgFvPeAgM
— Garbage Human (@GarbageHuman_) August 2, 2018
Times officials acknowledged that they were aware of her social media history before they offered her the editorial-board post, saying it came out during the vetting process.
“She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and The Times does not condone it,” the statement said.
The newspaper also posted a statement from Ms. Jeong, a former senior writer at the Verge, in which she described her behavior as “counter-trolling.”
“As a woman of color on the internet, I have faced torrents of online hate, often along this vein,” she said, and gave examples in which someone called her a racial slur and another threatened to “sock you right in your lesbian face.”
As a result, she said, “I engaged in what I thought of at the time of counter-trolling. While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers.”
After “candid conversations,” the Times said Ms. Jeong “understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at The Times and we are confident that she will be an important voice for the editorial board moving forward.”
Ms. Jeong added: “These comments were not aimed at a general audience, because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns. I can understand how hurtful these posts are out of context, and would not do it again.”
The statement came after Twitchy ran a slew of her disparaging tweets along with comments from prominent conservatives.
“Creepy race obsessive,” said Townhall’s Guy Benson, while Glenn Beck asked, “What will the New York Times do here? Are these jokes? Out of context? Does it matter?”
What will the New York Times do here? Are these jokes? Out of context? Does it matter? We now at least know a little more about her and the times. They clearly knew this before she was hired. https://t.co/nThrMz45g0
— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 2, 2018
Conservative media outlet Prager University suggested that Ms. Jeong was able to keep her job because her comments were directed against white men.
“These days, you can get in a lot of trouble for saying dumb, ugly or offensive things on Twitter,” Prager said. “Unless they’re against white men of course, then you get a gig at the @NYTimes.”
These days, you can get in a lot of trouble by saying dumb, ugly or offensive things on Twitter. Unless they’re against white men of course, then you get a gig at the @NYTimes.@sarahjeong https://t.co/AMCyp89ra9 https://t.co/BPzdxgkaWs
— PragerU (@prageru) August 2, 2018
The newspaper faced a similar situation in February after announcing the hiring of Wired’s Quinn Norton as its lead opinion writer on technology, which prompted a social media backlash over her description of white-nationalist internet troll Andrew Auernheimer as “a terrible person & an old friend.”
Ms. Norton had also “used slurs against gay people” and “retweeted a racial slur,” according to the newspaper.
Hours later, she announced that she would no longer join the newspaper, and editorial page editor James Bennet said they had decided “to go our separate ways.”
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