NYT's Stephens roasted for response to bedbug crack: 'Dish it out but can't take it'

Conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens was roasted on social media on Tuesday after he complained to a professor and his employer at George Washington University that the educator called him a "bedbug" in a tweet. 

Professor David Karpf shared an email from Stephens, which quickly went viral.

"It got 9 likes and 0 retweets. I did not @ him. He does not follow me," Karpf remarked about the email. "He is deeply offended that I called him a metaphorical bedbug."


"Someone just pointed out a tweet you wrote about me, calling me a 'bedbug,'" Stephens wrote to Karpf. "I'm often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they've never met — on Twitter. I think you've set a new standard."

The reference follows reports on Monday that the Times had an outbreak of bedbugs in its midtown Manhattan newsroom

Stephens announced Tuesday that he deactivated his Twitter account, calling the social media platform "a sewer."

“Time to do what I long ago promised to do. Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens wrote. “I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt. Thanks to all of my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”

Stephens, who came to the Times in April 2017, also appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday to explain his perspective on the bedbug insult.

“All I would say is that using dehumanizing rhetoric like bedbugs or, you know, analogizing people to insects, is always wrong,” Stephens said. “There’s a bad history of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past. I’ve been called worse. I wrote this guy a personal note. Now it’s out there for everyone to see.”

The blowback on Twitter in mocking Stephens, a staunch free speech advocate particularly as it pertains to college campuses, continued throughout Tuesday morning.

At one point, Stephens represented the top four trending topics on the social media platform.




The Times columnist invited Karpf to come to his home, meet his wife and children, and then "call me 'bedbug' to my face."

"That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part," Stephens told the professor in the email. "I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say. Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself."