We are rarely given a glimpse inside the struggle sessions at the New York Times. Last week New York Times science reporter Donald McNeil exited the newspaper as a result of an incident that occurred outside the Times two years ago. The Times made up a rule after the fact to justify McNeil’s exit. Aaron Sibarium recounts the background in the Washington Free Beacon story “New York Times Meltdown Plays Out in Private Facebook Group.” Sibarium relates it as follows:
McNeil’s ouster came nearly two years after the incident that precipitated it. While chaperoning high school students on a pricey trip to Peru, the science reporter responded to a question from a student about whether one of her classmates should have been suspended for using the n-word. In the process, he uttered the offending syllables himself. An internal Times investigation found his judgment wanting but stopped short of firing him.
Only after the Daily Beast published an account of the incident, thrusting it into the public realm for the first time, was McNeil pushed out. “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor, told staff in an email.
McNeil’s resignation on Friday—and Baquet’s post hoc explanation that intent doesn’t matter—renewed the bitter debate among staff, with reporters warring with each other in public and private.
A Times spokeswoman muddied the waters further on Sunday, telling the Free Beacon that racial epithets had no place “in the newspaper.” The paper printed the same epithet as recently as last week in a magazine profile of the Princeton classics professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta.
Sibarium’s story reports on the argument that has taken place in posts to a Facebook group for current and former Times staffers, “where a tense debate is unfolding over McNeil’s exit. One camp argues that [McNeil’s] dismissal was justified and another asserts it set a troubling precedent, which the New York Times union should have done more to prevent.” The application of a fabricated rule applied ex post facto reeks of Orwellian tyranny.
The invocation of labor solidarity sounds so retrograde in the face of the woke brigade: “Times crossword columnist Deb Amlen accused [former Times labor reporter Steven] Greenhouse of an excessive focus on the ‘perpetrator,’ arguing that he and others should shift their attention to the people McNeil had ‘harmed.'” What is a four-letter word beginning with “j” and ending with “k” for the Times crossword columnist?
In the course of his reporting Sibarium discovered that Times star Nikole Hannah-Jones had used the word that supposedly warranted McNeil’s termination, regardless of context. Sibarium sought comment from her via Twitter and was doxxed as a result, in violation of current (not ex post facto) Times policy. Sibarium tells this part of the story in “Nikole Hannah-Jones Scrubs Social Media After Doxxing Free Beacon Reporter.”
This entire story is saturated in the racial/racist orthodoxy to which the Times is now bound upon a wheel of fire, to borrow the phrase from King Lear. Beyond this obvious point, we can infer that Nikole Hannah-Jones is in effect running the Times as a law unto herself.
More to come.