Journalist Bari Weiss skewers New York Times in her resignation letter
Opinion editor and writer Bari Weiss has left the New York Times, publishing a scathing resignation letter on her way out Tuesday that accused the newspaper of allowing “unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge,” among other misdeeds.
The controversial journalist’s exit comes amid a reckoning prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement and after the New York Times’ publication of the inflammatory “Send in the Troops” op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for military mobilization against protesters.
The June piece was widely condemned within and beyond the newspaper and among scores of readers. It sparked what Weiss called a war between "(mostly young) wokes” and "(mostly 40+) liberals” and ultimately led to the departure of Opinion editor James Bennet.
New York Times’ Opinion Editor James Bennet resigned, days after acknowledging that he hadn’t read Sen. Tom Cotton’s inflammatory op-ed.
Weiss, who said she experienced “constant bullying by colleagues” who disagree with her views, was also among the signatories of last week’s divisive Harper’s open letter on cancel culture. She said she experienced bullying online and lamented the New York Times’ inaction on her harassment allegations.
“Some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are,” she wrote in her resignation letter addressed to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger.
“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor,” she continued. “As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”
“Cancel culture” has been with us since this country began — did anyone actually see “Hamilton”? So why is a group of esteemed writers wringing hands about the way a new generation uses it?
Weiss was not immediately available for additional comment on Tuesday.
In a Tuesday statement, Kathleen Kingsbury, the New York Times’ acting editorial page editor, said that she appreciated Weiss’ contributions to the section and is “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,” Kingsbury said.
New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy declined to comment on the specifics of Weiss’ letter, but added: “We’re committed to fostering an environment of honest, searching and empathetic dialogue between colleagues, one where mutual respect is required of all.”
The civil war inside The New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes the (mostly 40+) liberals is the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country. The dynamic is always the same. (Thread.)— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) June 4, 2020
Weiss was hired three years ago under Bennet, who brought in the views of more conservative writers, including Weiss and columnist Bret Stephens. The newspaper and its staff have long been a target for President Trump and his conservative allies; the president regularly describes the profitable, award-winning newspaper as “failing.”
She said she joined the paper with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in the paper of record, such as first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others “who would not naturally think of The Times as their home.” That’s because, she argued, the paper failed to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election, which meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers.” She said her section’s priority “was to help redress that critical shortcoming.”
She was previously the op-ed editor at the Wall Street Journal and an associate book review editor there. She also wrote the book “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.”
Weiss’ departure was met with both enthusiasm and frustration, with many sharing their own stories about her track record on anti-Semitism and cancel culture, while others praised the sentiments in her resignation letter.
New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner shared a thread about being critical of Weiss in the past, explaining on Twitter how she became an “un-hedged critical quote about Bari Weiss in that credulous Vanity Fair profile!”
“Bari Weiss never actually got fired, she is in fact quitting because she’s mad that all the people at the Times who don’t like her *didn’t* get fired. But they’ll still turn this into some kind of crusade to protect people from firing,” tweeted comedian Arthur Chu. “Which is at least consistent, because Bari Weiss herself LOVES trying to get people fired.”
“To say I’m against cancel culture is massive understatement but there is a difference between criticism and getting someone fired. @bariweiss quit, she wasn’t fired. She quit because people hurt her feelings. Seems snowflakey to me. You can’t cancel other people’s speech, either,” tweeted “The Young Turks” host Cenk Uygur.
To say I'm against cancel culture is massive understatement but there is a difference between criticism and getting someone fired. @bariweiss quit, she wasn't fired. She quit because people hurt her feelings. Seems snowflakey to me. You can't cancel other people's speech, either.— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) July 14, 2020
“Absolutely excoriating take down resignation letter from @bariweiss on the @nytimes. So needed to be said. And she said it brilliantly. Well done. And congratulations for your bravery,” tweeted writer Andrew Sullivan, who promptly announced his exit from New York magazine on Tuesday.
The timing of his announcement fueled rumors that Weiss and Sullivan might work together on a new project.
Former Democratic presidential hopefuls Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson also weighed in, the former encouraging the New York Times to “make some real changes” and the latter saying that “principled voices shouldn’t be suppressed in this country.”
Meanwhile, conservatives praised Weiss for pulling back the curtain on the newspaper’s operations. Her letter was endorsed by TV host Bill Maher and by Cotton on Twitter.
“The New York Times’s transition from a newspaper to a safe space for the woke mob continues!” the Arkansas senator tweeted.
The New York Times's transition from a newspaper to a safe space for the woke mob continues!https://t.co/NgX3PDCrUn— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) July 14, 2020
“This is a must read for everyone,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr. “If you want to get a glimpse into today’s enlightened media, and in this case The New York Times, you need look no further.”
Added Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas): “Wow .... If you read only one thing this week, read this eloquent, profound, incisive — and true — letter.”
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