The decade's most triggering comedy
A New York Times reporter has resigned following allegations that he made racist comments while on an educational trip in Peru in 2019.
Donald McNeil Jr. was the Times’ top reporter on the coronavirus pandemic, but the year-old allegations caught up with him, resulting in his resignation on Friday. The Daily Beast reported the allegations on January 28, 2021, which included vague descriptions of McNeil’s allegedly racist behavior.
The accusations stem from an annual summer trip that features Times reporters who inform high-school students about various countries and issues. In 2019, the trip took place in Peru and featured McNeil, who taught students about community-based health care.
Multiple students and their parents told the Beast that McNeil “repeatedly made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip including, according to two complaints, using the ‘n-word.’”
At least six students or parents told the tour company that organized the trip that McNeil repeatedly used racist language.
“Two students specifically alleged that the science reporter used the ‘n-word’ and suggested he did not believe in the concept of white privilege; three other participants alleged that McNeil made racist comments and used stereotypes about Black teenagers.”
The participants included the allegations in their reviews, which make vague references to what McNeil allegedly said.
“Not only did Donald say various racist comments on numerous occasions, but he was also disrespectful to many students during mealtimes and in other settings,” one person wrote.
“I would change the journalist. He was a racist,” wrote another. “He used the ‘N’ word, said horrible things about black teenagers, and said white supremacy doesn’t exist.”
“He wasn’t respectful during some of the traditional ceremonies we attended with indigenous healers/shamans,” another wrote. “He made students in the program feel uncomfortable with his remarks. I was really disappointed after hearing great things about his work.”
The Times told the Beast it investigated McNeil after the trip, when the allegations were made, and “disciplined Donald for statements and language that had been inappropriate and inconsistent with our values.”
“We found he had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language. In addition, we apologized to the students who had participated in the trip,” the Times added.
McNeil released an apology following his resignation, in which he explained the context behind his use of a racial slur in a conversation.
“On a 2019 New York Times trip to Peru for high school students, I was asked at dinner by a student whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she had made as a 12-year-old in which she used a racial slur,” McNeil wrote. “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. In asking the question, I used the slur itself. I should not have done that.”
“Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended,” he added. “I now realize that it cannot. It is deeply offensive and hurtful. The fact that I even thought I could defend it itself showed extraordinarily bad judgement. For that I apologize.”
Erik Wemple, The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple added that New York Times editors Dean Baquet and Joe Kahn wrote, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.”
The Times was made aware of the allegations shortly after the trip, and alerted its public relations department and publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, figuring the allegations would be made public at some point.
Internal action was taken against McNeil, but now that the allegations have been made public, he has resigned.