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Slate podcast host suspended over debate about racial slur

Slate has suspended Mike Pesca, host of the podcast “The Gist,” after he debated whether non-Black people should be allowed to quote certain racial slurs with colleagues

The New York Times reported that Pesca, who is white, was suspended indefinitely after getting into a debate on Slack regarding Times reporter Donald McNeil, who was recently suspended for repeatedly using a racial slur during a 2019 student trip.

Pesca reportedly argued that there were contexts in which the slur could be used. Dan Check, Slate's chief executive, quickly stopped the discussion, the Times reports.

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“While I can’t get into specific allegations that are under investigation, I can confirm this was not a decision based around making an isolated abstract argument in a Slack channel," Slate’s spokeswoman Katie Rayford told the Times.

Rayford also confirmed that "The Gist" would be indefinitely suspended while an investigation is opened.

According to the Times, Pesca said he was "heartsick" over hurting his colleagues while adding, “I hate the idea of things that are beyond debate and things that cannot be said.”

Joel Anderson, who hosted a season of Slate's "Slow Burn" podcast and is Black, shot back at insinuations that Pesca's suspension was an overreaction.

"For Black employees, it’s an extremely small ask to not hear that particular slur and not have debate about whether it’s OK for white employees to use that particular slur,” Anderson said.

The Times notes that Slate introduced a policy in 2019 that required podcast staff to discuss using racist terms before recording podcast episodes.

Pesca reportedly discussed the slur in a 2019 episode about a Black security guard who was fired for using the word. During the recording, he apparently said the slur while quoting the man, though a version in which he did not say it was ultimately used.