News and Commentary

Former New York Times Writer Says Paper ‘Living In Fear Of Online Mob’

Twitter has become the paper’s 'ultimate editor'
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 01: A person walks by the New York Times building in Times Square during Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on August 1, 2020 in New York, New York. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by
Rob Kim/Getty Images

Former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss says America’s “paper of record” is making editorial decisions that alienate “half of the country” because it fears being canceled by an irate mob.

Weiss, who resigned in July after former Editorial Page editor James Bennet was fired amid criticism for running an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), said Twitter has become the paper’s “ultimate editor.”

“My boss got fired for running an op-ed by a sitting U.S. senator,” said Weiss, appearing Friday on Bill Maher’s “Real Time.” “Now, you might say that Tom Cotton is detestable, that you disagree with him, but I don’t want to live in a world where the views of half of the country can’t be heard in the paper of record. And that’s, I fear, where we’re headed.”

“In order to do our job well, writers and editors, we need to have a level of bravery and thick skin and fearlessness,” she said. “And when you are living in fear of an online mob, you know, all it takes is a dozen people to repeat a lie about you — that you’re a racist, that you’re a transphobe, that you’re a bigot — for that lie to become true and that’s extremely dangerous.”

Weiss said on the HBO show that the purpose of her resignation letter was to air objections to the “growing culture of illiberalism” at the paper.

“Thomas and I, and you, Bill, we’re used to criticism,” she said. “Criticism is kosher in the work that we do. Criticism’s great. What cancel culture is about is not criticism. It is about punishment. It is about making a person radioactive. It is about taking away their job. It’s not just about punishing the sinner, it’s not just about punishing the person for being insufficiently pure.”

“It’s about a sort of secondary boycott of people who would deign to speak to that person or appear on a platform with that person,” Weiss said. “Politics has come to be people’s almost religious identity. That’s an enormous problem because what it’s meant is the collapse of moderates. It’s meant the collapse of the center and the retribalization of this country.”

In her open letter addressed to New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger in July, Weiss said the paper was condoning of “constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views” and an environment where she said, “self-censorship has become the norm.”

Weiss said she had taken endless abuse for her views, writing, “ … 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.”

To the publisher, she said:  “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.”

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