Forcing Black Teen Vogue editor to resign over teen tweets is cancel culture at its worst
Raise your hand if you ever said or wrote anything as a teenager that you would never utter as an adult.
The assumption is that a majority of you reading this column raised your hand. Perhaps you were in high school when social media didn’t exist or was in its infancy, so there is no record of your rhetorical or written “crime” and, therefore, no ramifications.
But an African American journalist named Alexi McCammond didn’t have that luxury. This accomplished journalist is just 27 years old. She’s worked at Axios covering the 2018 midterms and Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. She could be seen often as a contributor on MSNBC and NBC.
Earlier this month, she was named editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, part of the publishing giant Conde Nast. Two years ago, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) named her its emerging journalist of the year. But then some racist and homophobic tweets were unearthed and McCammond resigned Thursday, after the social media mob and multiple staffers at Teen Vogue demanded her scalp.
All because she wrote some tweets that were racially insensitive and stupid. As a teenager. While a freshman in college.
McCammond already had adamantly apologized for the tweets in question years ago, calling them idiotic, harmful and racist. “I’m beyond sorry for what you have experienced over the last twenty-four hours because of me. You’ve seen some offensive, idiotic tweets from when I was a teenager that perpetuated harmful and racist stereotypes about Asian Americans,” McCammond wrote Monday, just days before her resignation.
“I apologized for them years ago, but I want to be clear today: I apologize deeply to all of you for the pain this has caused. There’s no excuse for language like that,” she continued. “I am determined to use the lessons I’ve learned as a journalist to advocate for a more diverse and equitable world. Those tweets aren’t who I am, but I understand that I have lost some of your trust, and will work doubly hard to earn it back.”
But here’s the most amazing part: The tweets in question were broached by McCammond proactively when interviewing for the Teen Vogue job. The powers that be told her they wouldn’t be an issue.
But the powers that be at many news organizations and publications no longer are powerful. It’s the woke staffers who run the asylums now.
Take Donald McNeil Jr., formerly of the New York Times for 45 years, as an example. As a science and health reporter, McNeil won a John Chancellor Award while finishing first for international reporting (beating 150,000 other entries) for a top award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
He’s now “formerly of the Times” because he had used a racial slur during a trip to Peru sponsored by the newspaper. But the story isn’t so simple, because McNeil only repeated back the slur to a student who asked him a question about it while attempting to understand the context.
“To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title,” McNeil wrote in a farewell letter to colleagues last month. “In asking the question, I used the slur itself.”
The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, originally ruled in favor of McNeil, arguing that the reporter hadn’t used the slur with any intentions that “were hateful or malicious.” That should have been the end of it — but it wasn’t.
More than 150 woke staffers at the Times wanted his scalp, regardless of his more than four decades at the paper or the context or intent of his words. Said staffers sent a scathing letter about Baquet to the newspaper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who ruled that McNeil had to go. The mob won.
Or take the case of Carson King of Iowa. During a 2019 football game that included ESPN’s popular “College GameDay” pregame show broadcasting live on campus, King, 24, held up a sign to send beer money donations to his Venmo account. The sign quickly went viral, with more than $1 million pouring into his account.
But King did what few twenty-somethings would do in such a situation: He decided to donate the money to a local children’s hospital for cancer, with Anheuser-Busch matching the donations, bringing the total to north of $3 million. Anheuser-Busch also pledged to give King a year’s supply of beer.
This should have been the feel-good story of the year. That all ended, however, when – for no good reason whatsoever – then-Des Moines Register reporter Aaron Calvin decided to dig into King’s tweets all the way back to eight years prior, when he was just 16. Two offensive tweets were found. Anheuser-Busch rescinded its free beer offer as a result, while King’s reputation was damaged for something he wrote his sophomore year of high school.
But here’s the irony: Someone decided to go back through reporter Calvin’s tweets and found some that included derogatory language against Blacks, gays and same-sex marriage. Whoops. That got Calvin fired from the Register.
Everyone involved got nuked.
As for Alexi McCammond, here’s hoping some major publication has the guts to hire her, all while declaring that tweets from her teen years for which she has profusely apologized should not be an issue now.
We all evolve from our high school years. We become adults who gather a different worldview after perhaps going to college and working a real job, as McCammond did in attending the University of Chicago before joining Axios.
“My past tweets have overshadowed the work I’ve done to highlight the people and issues that I care about … and so Condé Nast and I have decided to part ways,” she wrote on Thursday.
It’s sad to see. It doesn’t have to be.
Hire Alexi McCammond. She’s earned the right to serve as an editor-in-chief somewhere. Give her that chance in the name of sanity.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.