Bari Weiss, staff editor and writer in The New York Times’ opinion section, resigned on Tuesday, decrying what she said was “constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views” and an environment where she said “self-censorship has become the norm.”
“What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity,” she wrote in a lengthy resignation letter, which she posted to her personal website. “If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.”
Her resignation follows that of James Bennet, the editor of the Opinion section, who stepped down last month after a number of Times staffers verbally protested the decision to publish an op ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), in which he defended the notion of sending troops to cities to quell protests following the death of George Floyd.
Another prominent opinion writer and columnist, Andrew Sullivan, also announced on Tuesday that he was leaving New York magazine. Like Weiss, he has pushed back on “cancel culture,” particularly on college campuses.
In her letter, Weiss claimed that in the environment of the Times, it’s become a liability to have an alternative point of view. She wrote that “my own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.'”
She added, “Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, 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.”
Noting the influence of social media, Weiss wrote, “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor.”
Kathleen Kingsbury, the acting editorial page editor of the Times, said in a statement, “We appreciate the many contributions that Bari made to Times Opinion. I’m personally committed to ensuring that The Times continues to publish voices, experiences and viewpoints from across the political spectrum in the Opinion report. We see every day how impactful and important that approach is, especially through the outsized influence The Times’s opinion journalism has on the national conversation.”
Weiss wrote that after the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s surprise victory, she was hired “with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home.”
“Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else,” she wrote.
Weiss was a guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, and the host on Tuesday linked to her letter and wrote, “As a longtime reader who has in recent years read the paper with increasing dismay over just the reasons outlined here, I hope this letter finds receptive ears at the paper. But for the reasons outlined here, I doubt it.”
Sullivan wrote of his departure that “I’m sad because the editors I worked with there are among the finest in the country, and I am immensely grateful to them for vastly improving my work. … I have no beef with my colleagues, many of whom I admire and are friends. The underlying reasons for the split are pretty self-evident, and I’ll be discussing the broader questions involved in my last column this Friday.”
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