News and Analysis

Same WaPo That Suspended Reporter Over Sexist Retweet Once Hired A Gang Rapist
Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post just suspended a reporter for retweeting a mildly sexist joke, but in the 1990s, it employed a self-professed gang rapist who wrote about his prior exploits in the newspaper’s own pages.

Ace reporter Dave Weigel, currently serving a month-long suspension without pay for the retweet, must marvel at the treatment afforded Nathan McCall, his predecessor at the far-left broadsheet. McCall began a decade-long stint at the paper in 1989, 11 years after he was released from prison for holding up a McDonald’s. By his own admission, McCall’s treatment of women was far worse than passing along a joke.

“We perfected the art of luring babes into those kinds of traps,” McCall wrote in his 1994 memoir, “Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America,” excerpts of which the Post published. “We ran a train at my house when my parents were away. We ran many at Bimbo’s crib because both his parents worked. And we set one up at Lep’s place and even let his little brother get in on it. He couldn’t have been more than eight or nine.”

McCall’s hiring at the newspaper that broke Watergate was a story of redemption. He claimed to have turned his life around during a twelve-year prison sentence, during which he read Karl Marx and Malcolm X, but remained gripped by grievance, resenting “suggestions that blacks enjoy being ‘righteous victims.’” McCall worked his way up, serving stints at the Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before landing the prestigious gig.

The newspaper had no qualms about having a reporter on staff who, by his own admission, had committed serious crimes earlier in his life. In fact, in 1991 he wrote an article for the Post that foreshadowed his soon-to-come memoir.

“From a shoplifting charge, to stealing an ice-cream truck, to possession of a sawed-off shotgun and, ultimately, to armed robbery, I’ve had my share of clashes with the law… When I was 19, in a running rivalry with some other thugs, I shot a man in the chest at point-blank range,” he wrote.

The paper granted McCall a leave of absence to write his autobiography, which included disturbing recollections of taking part in gang-rapes of girls as young as 13. The Post later ran excerpts from the book.

McCall, who is currently a lecturer in the Department of African-American Studies at Atlanta’s Emory University, left the Post in 1998, according to a resume. But the paper continued to publish pieces he contributed, including one lambasting then-President Barack Obama in 2011 for telling blacks to “stop complaining.”

A decade after that article ran, Weigel was suspended for retweeting a joke that claimed, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.” The suspension came after Felicia Sonmez, a national reporter, complained of sexism. For days, she lashed out that the Washington Post management protects sexist behavior.

“Do you have any idea of the torrent of abuse I’m facing right now?” Sonmez wrote.

As an example, the Harvard grad cited that a Twitter account with 46 followers had written: “How can someone be so privileged that the biggest drama of their life was some tweet?” the critic wrote. “You wouldn’t know actual sexism if it slapped your stupid face.”

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