The New York Times announced that Verge senior writer Sarah Jeong would be joining its editorial board on Wednesday, and it didn’t take long for conservative Twitter to dig up her old tweets and claim evidence of racism that should be disqualifying.
Meet the newest member of the New York Times editorial board.
I'd say that these tweets were part of her resumè when she applied for the job. pic.twitter.com/CLgFvPeAgM
— Garbage Human 🗑 (@GarbageHuman_) August 2, 2018
Though Jeong apologized and explained her rhetoric was “counter-trolling” racist and misogynistic online harassment directed at her, the right was quick to recall how Kevin Williamson and Quinn Norton were fired for comments that had been made years before they were hired as columnists.
Kevin Williamson had to go, but she gets to stay https://t.co/mAxQDItC0B
— Patrick Ruffini (@PatrickRuffini) August 2, 2018
Why does one (Sarah Jeong) get a ‘pass’ from NYT and another (Quinn Norton) not get a ‘pass’ from NYT for horrible tweets? pic.twitter.com/V9qKptcuDn
— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) August 3, 2018
Splinter’s Libby Watson pointed out the absurdity of those comparisons:
“Kevin Williamson was fired when it was revealed that he said on a podcast, and tweeted, that he supported hanging for women who get abortions. It wasn’t a purposeful misinterpretation of Williamson’s tweets or words on a podcast that got him fired; by Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s own admission, it was the fact that Williamson actually meant it that got him fired, as well as the fact that his “language was callous and violent.” So no, jokes about how Breaking Bad is about a sad white guy is not the same thing as advocating the murder of women who get abortions. This is not a challenging concept.”
A statement from the New York Times defending Jeong drew near-unanimous condemnation for not going far enough. Conservatives dug in and accused the Times of condoning racism for not dismissing Jeong:
This is such a lame excuse. Just admit that you have no problem with her racist remarks and move on. https://t.co/xgqUpWsqjQ
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) August 2, 2018
And so do media double standards. If Jeong’s comments had been aimed at blacks instead of whites, would the NYT have been so forgiving? https://t.co/0bf6tExxnV
— Brit Hume (@brithume) August 3, 2018
1. New York Times does not use the word "racist" to describe Jeong's tweets.
Richard Spencer is more subtle than this woman.
2. I'm not sure, "I imitated internet commenters" is really the kind of editorial decision-making fit for America's top newspaper. https://t.co/wieMHKpIr3
— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) August 2, 2018
Shall we from now on just say, “The RACIST NY Times?” These goons have the audacity to ask @realDonaldTrump to “tone it down?” Even birds are on strike & won’t poop on the Times anymore! Sarah Jeong needs help. That kind of hate isn’t normal or healthy. https://t.co/m5sGmhBFVi pic.twitter.com/HCcTcpDzO9
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) August 3, 2018
Huff Post’s Ashley Feinberg and Sludge’s Jay Cassano criticized the Times for entertaining the common conservative scare tactic of removing context from old tweets to manufacture outrage:
god the more i read this the madder i get—“this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media”
you know what feeds vitriol? constantly getting played by racist mau-mau campaigns because your posture of objectivity is really just moral illiteracy
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) August 2, 2018
A missing piece of the analysis of faux outrage around Sarah Jeong being hired by the Times is that the goal of the outrage is not to get her fired; it's to use it as a wedge to polarize people into distrusting the media more.
4chan /pol/ calls this process "redpilling normies" pic.twitter.com/HVh0rCYEUy
— Jay Cassano (@jcassano) August 3, 2018
“But as the editors of The Verge, we want to be clear: this abusive backlash is dishonest and outrageous. The trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same tactics that exploded during Gamergate, and they have been employed in recent years by even broader audiences amid a rise in hostility toward journalists… So we’re not going to fall for these disingenuous tactics. And it’s time other newsrooms learn to spot these hateful campaigns for what they are: attempts to discredit and undo the vital work of journalists who report on the most toxic communities on the internet.”
But the conservative angst about Jeong hasn’t slowed down, as it reached Fox News’ Tucker Carlson before Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., President Donald Trump’s sons who are running the family business and definitely not involved in politics, got in on the act.
I would expect nothing less from the @nytimes. Clearly their recruiting standars are at an all time high 🙄 To ALL Law Enforcement, America is 100% behind you! Please ignore this garbage. We love and appreciate you. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 https://t.co/3AaTMvhW8s
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) August 3, 2018
However, many of the people who were outraged about Jeong’s old tweets appeared to have engaged in actual racism on Twitter. Writer Owen Ellickson and Gizmodo’s Matt Novak were among the first to spot this pattern:
welcome to the popular new game Is There A Sarah Jeong Critic Who Hasn’t Tweeted Something Racist?
round 1: no pic.twitter.com/F5Z613tOe2
— Owen Ellickson (@onlxn) August 2, 2018
As just one example… I hope the New York Times doesn’t cave to this garbage pic.twitter.com/4sUzrbXGIp
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) August 2, 2018
The hypocrisy wasn’t limited to unverified Twitter accounts. New York Magazine’s Andrew Sullivan has been up in arms about Jeong:
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) August 3, 2018
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) August 3, 2018
I’m English by origin. As a people, we will never stop giggling at funny names and Asian accents: http://t.co/3qJksFspW9
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) August 2, 2013