The New York Times has been lauded as “the paper of record.” It’s one of the pillars of the current American Establishment and a mouthpiece of elite opinion. Working for the paper has long been considered an honor indicative of having reached the top of the journalistic profession.
But if the recent brouhaha over the firing of its former top coronavirus reporter Don McNeil is any indication, the Times seems to be run these days by a gaggle of completely inept losers.
Scrambling and Confusion
Now that McNeil has been forced to resign, the Times doesn’t seem to know what to do about the matter.
Of course, as anyone familiar with the basic facts of the incident can tell you, the whole thing is utterly overblown.
In essence, what happened is that McNeil went on a Times-sponsored trip to Peru in 2019, and he spoke to some high school students about the importance of community-based healthcare. During a dinner, a student asked him whether he thought one of her friends should have been suspended from school for making a video in which she had said the n-word. McNeil asked for some more context and ended up repeating the n-word himself while asking.
That’s it. That’s what McNeil was fired for. He did not use the word with any malice. He was simply asking a question. The context is completely innocent.
Malicious or Not, McNeil Was Fired
Now that the Times had forced him to grovel and abase himself before ultimately firing him anyway, the paper has begun to face some backlash.
The Daily Beast had dredged up details of the McNeil episode and published a story about it. This led 150 Times employees to write a letter complaining about McNeil. This is what led the Times’ management to overreact in the way that it did. It buckled under pressure.
Things began to get worse when Bret Stephens, a writer for the Times, penned a column in which he criticized how the paper handled the matter. Executive Editor Dean Baquet had said that “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” and Stephens criticized this position as ridiculous and dangerous. In response, A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher, quashed the column, and it was never published.
Baquet’s comments about not tolerating racist language regardless of intent also contradict his earlier comments on the McNeil incident; he said that “It did not appear to me that his intentions were hateful or malicious.”
In short, the management at the Times has no idea what to do. In their desperate bid to avoid all criticism, they make one overreaction after another, walk back or contradict one statement after another. In their bid to please everyone and have things both ways, they have angered everyone and made a laughing stock of themselves.
This could have all been avoided if management had simply stood by McNeil and pointed out the obvious: McNeil had said nothing wrong.