The decade's most triggering comedy
Disgraced New Yorker fact-checker Talia Lavin has been having a rough 2019, and now New York University has ended her brief tenure as a member of their journalism school faculty after only two students signed up to take her class on “investigating the far right.”
Lavin, whom readers may remember from that time she questioned why Americans still insist on paying homage to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, or from when she used the rare opportunity of being published in The Washington Post to try to link Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro to notorious neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, was supposed to teach a short course called “Researching the Far Right” as part of NYU’s summer journalism continuing education series.
The choice, by NYU, was questionable from the beginning. After all, Lavin’s record is not simply one of a partisan journalist but of a pretty lousy researcher. In what was perhaps her most famous media moment, Lavin posted a series of photos of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent assigned to one of the bureau’s digital task forces, claiming that the agent had a tattoo of a Nazi Iron Cross around his elbow, and identifying the man as a potential white supremacist.
There was just one problem: Justin Gaertner, the wounded Marine pictured in the ICE publicity photo, doesn’t have a tattoo of a Nazi Iron Cross. His tattoo is of the symbol of his platoon in Afghanistan — the same platoon he was with when he lost both legs. He now works as an investigator for ICE, tracking down online child predators.
Lavin was subsequently fired from her job as a fact-checker at The New Yorker, though she complained that the incident was merely a “small mistake” — even if she almost ruined the life and reputation of a wounded Afghanistan veteran. She blamed conservative media for twisting her story, accusing conservative journalists of every manner of sin, from being intimidated by her “Harvard” education to being flat-out anti-Semitic.
She was hired by Media Matters shortly thereafter as a “researcher” of the far right (as her qualifications for such a position were clearly and inarguably stellar) but left that post some time ago and had remained out of the public eye until she surfaced as a guest instructor at NYU.
Although NYU may not have been able to grasp while Lavin was a bad fit for a course based on research and fact-checking, potential students certainly must have. According to The Wrap, which spoke to Adam Penenberg, the “director of undergraduate studies at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute,” only two people signed up to take Lavin’s class.
“Canceling the class had nothing to do with Talia’s writings, tweets, or anything else. We cancelled it because too few students enrolled,” Penenberg told the entertainment newsmagazine.
Lavin had been listed on NYU’s faculty website as an “expert” in the “far right” and on “social justice,” but her biography disappeared sometime in April, likely when they made the initial decision to cancel the class — or, perhaps, in response to that disgraceful Washington Post op-ed, in which Lavin accused conservatives who supported rebuilding the burned-down Notre Dame cathedral of cultural supremacy.
NYU told The Wrap that, despite Lavin’s superlative qualifications, the one, short-lived summer class is probably the only flirtation she’ll have with passing her ample wisdom down to baby journalists as an NYU educator. But NYU’s administration did reveal that America has a Lavin-authored treatise on the “far right” to look forward to.
“It would make no sense to try it again, given how few students expressed interest,” Penenberg told The Wrap. “We have no plans to offer Talia another course, simply because her main focus (and the focus of her upcoming book) is the far right.”