Not for the first time (and probably not the last), The New York Times has found itself mired in controversy.
At the center of the most recent dispute is the outlet's newest hire, writer Sarah Jeong. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter of her hiring, but what are the facts? Scroll down below for an explanation of the outrage and arguments.
On Wednesday, The New York Times announced that journalist and Harvard Law graduate Sarah Jeong, formerly a senior writer specializing in technology reports for The Verge, would be joining their editorial board.
One day later (internet trolls are nothing if not fast working), screenshots of a series of tweets Jeong had made years prior began to go viral. In said tweets, Jeong, an Asian-American woman, disparages white people, tweeting sentiments like “#CancelWhitePeople,” and “Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.”
Calls for Jeong’s firing began at once.
How Did the New York Times Respond?
The New York Times stood by Jeong and clarified the aim of her tweets, writing, “[Jeong’s] journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets, and The Times does not condone it.”
How Did the Verge Respond?
In a powerful letter, Jeong’s current employer called the backlash from the reporter’s tweets “dishonest and outrageous,” viewing it as an attack from “people acting in bad faith who do not care about the work [journalists] do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.”
“Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda,” the letter continued. “They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.”
How Did Jeong’s Detractors Respond?
Many have overlooked the purported satirical nature of Jeong’s tweets and swiftly labeled her a racist.
One New York Magazine writer, Andrew Sullivan (a white man) alleged that the argument came down to whether a racial minority can be labeled racist, arguing that any white person who tweeted the same sentiments about a person of color (or a Jew) would be clearly in the wrong, an idea which was echoed by several Twitter users:
Others, most Caucasian and of a conservative bent, compared Jeong’s tweets to the racist spree that ultimately got titular Roseanne star Roseanne Barr blacklisted in Hollywood.
Critics also pointed to NYT’s firing of white woman journalist Quinn Norton over her use of various racist and homophobic slurs on twitter, as well as her claim that she’s befriended “various neo-nazis.”
How Did Jeong’s Supporters Respond?
The controversy has sprung outcry from many (mostly liberals), labeling Jeong’s tweets as cutting cultural criticism.
Some even contended that the driving issue behind the controversy came down to Jeong's gender:
Others argue along the lines of NYT, noting that Jeong’s tweets were not OK, but should not precipitate her firing.
How Did Jeong Respond?
Jeong posted two examples of the harassment that prompted her to publish the controversial tweets in question, explaining, “I engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter-trolling. While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers. These comments were not aimed at a general audience, because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns. I can understand how hurtful these posts are out of context, and would not do it again.”