The Washington Post‘s medic critic, Erik Wemple, on Monday scorched the New York Times for its “triggered” reaction to a Breitbart News article that exposed antisemitic and racist tweets from one of its senior editors.
Breitbart News reported Thursday that a senior editor at the Times, Tom Wright-Piersanti, had a history of antisemitic and racist tweets, including a tweet from January 1, 2010, that read: “I was going to say ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic. So… HAPPY Jew Year. You Jews.”
The Times at first refused to respond to repeated requests for comment from Breitbart News, but did respond to the New York Post and other outlets’ requests for comment with a very terse: “We are aware of these tweets, which are a clear violation of our standards. We are reviewing next steps.”
On Sunday, however, the Times responded with a piece claiming there was a “new front in the war on the press” to embarrass and discredit journalists who report on Trump. The Times alleged that a “loose network of conservative operatives” were “pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.”
Additionally, the paper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, released a statement warning of “an escalation of an ongoing campaign against the free press” and praising its staff for fearlessness in the face of harassment.
Wemple roasted the Times for overstating the alleged campaign to target journalists with their own tweets. He wrote:
They are bad actors. They are driven to suppress legitimate inquiry. They are by no means journalists.
And they read Twitter very carefully!
Those are the contours of an alarm rung on Sunday by the New York Times. “A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists,” wrote Kenneth P. Vogel and Jeremy W. Peters.
And just what would this “damaging information” be? Illicitly obtained DMs? Gossip about their sexual habits? HIPAA-protected information?
Nope. “Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.” Bolding added to note that this “damaging information” is available not only to a “loose network of conservative operatives” but also to the loose network of everyone with access to the Internet.
Wemple took the Times to task for claiming there was an operation to discredit them by bad faith actors, but at the same time claiming it would own its mistakes. The Times cannot have it both ways, he argued.
There’s an incompatibility in the Times story and the Sulzberger memo: On one hand, there’s an attempt to tar the motivations of the ‘loose network of conservative operatives’; on the other, there’s a stubborn admission that they have brought actionable information to public attention.
For decades now, representatives of the mainstream media have answered conservative critiques by imploring: Judge us by the work we produce, not by the fact that more than 90 percent of us are liberal/Democratic. Mainstreamers cannot have it both ways. Cut the idle and unverifiable talk about motivations. If the tweets presented by the “loose network of conservative operatives” are racist or anti-Semitic or otherwise problematic, take action. If they’re nonsensical distractions, ignore them.
Wemple concluded: “In the meantime,the “loose network of conservative operatives” must be celebrating right about now, having triggered not only an extensive scolding in the Times, but also an eight-paragraph memo from its publisher.”