Conservative NYT op-ed writer resigns, alleging ‘hostile work environment’
A conservative opinion writer at The New York Times published an open letter announcing her resignation on Tuesday, accusing the paper of allowing her to be bullied by colleagues because of her political views.
Bari Weiss, who joined the Times from The Wall Street Journal in April 2017, said she has “been the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views.”
She said Times reporters have called her a Nazi and racist and that the editors have allowed her to be “openly demeaned,” publicly smeared and harassed by colleagues on the paper’s internal messaging system and on social media.
In her letter, Weiss said Times editors and reporters had privately expressed support for her and agreed that she has been the subject of a “new McCarthyism” that does not allow for dissent.
But Weiss said she was resigning because the editors had refused to take action and because no one would defend her in public.
“There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong,” Weiss wrote.
“I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.”
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told The Hill that the paper is “committed to fostering an environment of honest, searching and empathetic dialogue between colleagues, one where mutual respect is required of all.”
Weiss has described herself as a left-leaning centrist but she has been a vocal critic of the left.
Weiss was one of 153 mostly liberal public intellectuals who signed an open letter that was published in Harper’s last week warning about what they view as an effort on the left to achieve ideological conformity by imposing limits on speech.
The letter drew attention to ongoing debate in media and academia about whether there should be limits on speech and whether individuals should face consequences for speech that is deemed to be bigoted or dangerous.
Critics of the letter said that publishers must consider whether speech endangers minority groups, particularly at this time of historic civil unrest over systemic racism in the U.S.
Some of the signers of the Harper’s letter pointed to an incident earlier this year when the Times published an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) calling on Trump to deploy troops into U.S. cities dealing with protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
The op-ed was met with anger from some reporters in the Times newsroom, who went on Twitter to warn that it endangered the lives of their black colleagues.
In her resignation letter, Weiss said the paper had allowed Twitter to “become its ultimate editor,” which she said had led to an editorial process designed to “satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.”
Weiss said the Cotton controversy had a chilling effect on editorial writers who are not liberal or those seeking to challenge policy positions on the left.
“If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it,” she wrote. “If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.”
Kathleen Kingsbury, the acting editorial page editor, said in a statement that the paper would continue to promote important voices “from across the political spectrum.”
“We appreciate the many contributions that Bari made to Times Opinion,” Kingsbury said. “I’m personally committed to ensuring that The Times continues to publish voices, experiences and viewpoints from across the political spectrum in the Opinion report. We see every day how impactful and important that approach is, especially through the outsized influence The Times’s opinion journalism has on the national conversation.”
Weiss cited recent op-eds or reported stories in the Times that she found to be appalling as evidence that the paper will only react to controversies if they are driven by liberal anger toward conservatives.
“It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed ‘fell short of our standards.’ We attached an editor’s note on a travel story about Jaffa shortly after it was published because it ‘failed to touch on important aspects of Jaffa’s makeup and its history.’ But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati,” Weiss wrote.
“The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people. This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its ‘diversity’; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.”
Weiss warned that the paper risks turning away “centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home,” which she said would foster the kind of insularity that might lead them to miss extraordinary developments, such as President Trump’s shocking 2016 election victory.
“The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers,” Weiss wrote.
“The lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
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