News, Culture & Society

Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan to leave New York magazine

Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan announced he is leaving New York magazine this week, saying the reasons for the split were ‘pretty self-evident’. He said he would elaborate in his final column on Friday

Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan has announced he is leaving New York magazine this week, saying the reasons for the split were ‘pretty self-evident’.

Sullivan, who has worked at New York magazine since 2016, said he would elaborate on his reasons in his final column on Friday. 

It comes just weeks after he was allegedly banned by the publication from writing about the riots across the US in the wake of George Floyd’s death.  

Sullivan’s announcement came the same day New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss revealed on Tuesday she had quit in a scathing resignation letter that slammed the newspaper for fostering an ‘illiberal environment’ and allegedly allowing her to be bullied by coworkers for ‘wrongthink’.

‘This will be my last week at New York Magazine,’ Sullivan tweeted on Tuesday. 

‘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’m also proud of the essays and columns I wrote at NYM – some of which will be published in a collection of my writing scheduled for next year.’

While Sullivan didn’t give specific reasons for leaving the magazine, he said he had ‘no beef’ with his colleagues. 

‘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,’ he said. 

‘I’ve been preparing for this eventuality, and the column will continue elsewhere. See you on Friday, when I’ll detail some exciting news.’

Sullivan, who was was born and raised in the UK but has lived in the US for decades, has previously expressed concern that a ‘woke’ culture is crowding out dissenting opinion. 

The British journalist didn't elaborate on his reasons for leaving the magazine but said he had 'no beef' with his colleagues and that he would elaborate in his final column

The British journalist didn’t elaborate on his reasons for leaving the magazine but said he had ‘no beef’ with his colleagues and that he would elaborate in his final column

Sullivan's announcement came after New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss revealed on Tuesday she had quit in a scathing resignation letter that slammed the newspaper for fostering an 'illiberal environment' and allegedly allowing her to be bullied by coworkers for 'wrongthink'

Sullivan’s announcement came after New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss revealed on Tuesday she had quit in a scathing resignation letter that slammed the newspaper for fostering an ‘illiberal environment’ and allegedly allowing her to be bullied by coworkers for ‘wrongthink’

In a June 12 column titled ‘Is There Still Room to Debate?’ Sullivan wrote about an increasingly furious campaign to quell dissent from the central idea that society’s evils stem from discrimination against blacks.

‘In these past two weeks, if you didn’t put up on Instagram or Facebook some kind of slogan or symbol displaying your wokeness, you were instantly suspect,’ he wrote.

New York magazine also faced backlash last month for allegedly banning Sullivan from writing about anti-racism protests across the US. 

Sullivan had tweeted that his column wouldn’t be running in mid-June and Cockburn, an American blog run by UK-based news outlet The Spectator, claimed it was because editors didn’t want him writing about the riots. 

The blog claimed, citing a source close to New York magazine, that Sullivan had to have his work vetted by sensitive junior editors to make sure it doesn’t trigger them before being published.

Neither Sullivan or the magazine commented at the time. 

David Haskell, editor-in-chief of New York magazine, said he and Sullivan both agreed that his ideas and the magazine’s were no longer a match. 

‘Andrew and I agreed that his editorial project and the magazine’s, though overlapping in many ways, were no longer the right match for each other,’ he said in a memo to staff.

‘While I found myself often disagreeing with his politics, I also found it valuable to be publishing work that challenged my thinking.’ 

‘I am trying hard to create in this magazine a civil, respectful, intellectually honest space for political debate. I believe there is a way to write from a conservative perspective about some of the most politically charged subjects of American life while still upholding our values.’

Haskell went on to say that publishing conservative commentary in 2020 ‘is difficult to get right’ and that ‘thoughtful, well meaning people can come to different conclusions about it’. 

Sullivan’s departure from the magazine came on the same day Weiss, who joined the Times in 2017, revealed she was resigning and accused the newspaper of only publishing stories that ‘satisfy the narrowest of audiences’.

Sullivan referenced Weiss’ resignation letter in several tweets and retweets soon after, including one in which he wrote: ‘I’d say Bari’s future is a lot more promising than the NYT’s.’  

He also tweeted: ‘The mob bullied and harassed a young woman for thoughtcrimes. And her editors stood by and watched.’  

Journalist Yashar Ali tweeted on Tuesday that several sources had told him in recent weeks that Sullivan and Weiss were working on a new project together.  

Sullivan referenced Weiss' resignation letter in several tweets and retweets soon after it was published on her website on Tuesday

Sullivan referenced Weiss’ resignation letter in several tweets and retweets soon after it was published on her website on Tuesday

Journalist Yashar Ali tweeted on Tuesday that several sources had told him in recent weeks that Sullivan and Weiss were working on a new project together

Journalist Yashar Ali tweeted on Tuesday that several sources had told him in recent weeks that Sullivan and Weiss were working on a new project together

ANDREW SULLIVAN: THE CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR   

Andrew Sullivan, who is openly gay, is a conservative political commentator who lives in Washington DC.

He was born and raised in the UK but has lived in the US for decades.

Prior to joining New York magazine in 2016, he was an editor at The New Republic.

He founded the Daily Dish, which is a political blog published by Time and The Atlantic before going independent.

Sullivan, who has also written six books, retired from blogging in 2015 and became a writer-at-large at New York magazine the following year.

President Donald Trump weighed in on Weiss’ resignation on Wednesday when he tweeted that people were fleeing the New York Times.   

‘Wow. The @nytimes is under siege. The real reason is that it has become Fake News. They never covered me correctly – they blew it. People are fleeing, a total mess!’ he said. 

In a lengthy resignation letter addressed to NY Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and posted on her website, Weiss said the paper of record was among the media institutions now betraying their standards and losing sight of their principles.

Weiss, who has previously said she doesn’t support Trump, went on to claim that the opinions of those on Twitter had become the newspaper’s ‘ultimate editor’. 

Weiss, who once dated SNL’s Kate McKinnon while studying at Columbia University, also accused the outlet of creating a ‘hostile work environment’ for employees that essentially had anything other than left-of-center views.

She claims this mentality resulted in her being constantly bullied by coworkers who have called her a ‘Nazi and a racist’ because of her ‘own forays into wrongthink’. 

‘Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery,’ Weiss wrote. 

Weiss started her letter saying she optimistically joined the newspaper three years ago in what she described as the outlet’s efforts to bring in voices that wouldn’t normally appear.  

‘The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers,’ she wrote. ‘The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming.

‘But the lessons that ought to have followed the election – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society – have not been learned.

‘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. 

In a lengthy resignation letter addressed to NY Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and posted on her website, Weiss said the paper of record was among the media institutions now betraying their standards and losing sight of their principles

In a lengthy resignation letter addressed to NY Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and posted on her website, Weiss said the paper of record was among the media institutions now betraying their standards and losing sight of their principles

President Donald Trump weighed in on Weiss' resignation on Wednesday when he tweeted that people were fleeing the New York Times

President Donald Trump weighed in on Weiss’ resignation on Wednesday when he tweeted that people were fleeing the New York Times 

WAVE OF CONSERVATIVES PRAISE WEISS’ EXIT FROM NYT

President Donald Trump weighed in on Weiss’ resignation on Wednesday when he tweeted that people were fleeing the New York Times.   

‘Wow. The @nytimes is under siege. The real reason is that it has become Fake News. They never covered me correctly – they blew it. People are fleeing, a total mess!’ he said. 

He was part of a wave of conservative figures who praised Weiss’ decision to leave.  

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Tuesday: ‘NYT editor @bariweiss resigns in STUNNING fashion & exposes the Times’ rampant attacks on anyone who breaks from the far-left narrative.’

 

 

 

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, also praised Weiss’ letter as ‘eloquent, profound, incisive – and true.’

‘They’ve been replaced by authoritarian statists demanding complete uniformity & subservient obedience to government. No free speech. No civil liberties. Just totalitarian tyranny,’ he added. 

Meghan McCain, a conservative commentator and daughter of former Republican Sen. John McCain hailed Weiss as a ‘true original’ and ‘a fearless thinker’.

She called her exit from the Times ‘another nail in the coffin for diversity of though in mainstream media.’

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has lobbied for a GOP bill to allow users to sue social media companies and accuses tech giants like Facebook and YouTube of silencing conservative speech, said her letter was ‘powerful’. 

Her support came from across the political aisle as former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted: ‘If someone like @bariweiss feels like she can’t do her best work at the @nytimes they should make some real changes over there.’ 

 

 

‘Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.’ 

Weiss went on to claim that intellectual curiosity and risk-taking was now a ‘liability’ at the Times. 

‘Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm,’ she wrote.

‘What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity.

‘Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired.’

Weiss has repeatedly drawn criticism during her time at the newspaper.

Most recently, she tweeted that there was a ‘civil war’ brewing inside the Times in relation to the controversy surrounding the publication of the Tom Cotton op-ed.

The Times ran a column calling the Senator’s op-ed ‘fascist’ after he called on Trump to use the military to crack down on rioting, looting and violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Initially, publisher A.G. Sulzberger stood behind the column but the outlet later backtracked.

James Bennet, the New York Times editorial page editor responsible for publishing Cotton’s column, resigned over the ordeal following the outrage from inside and outside the Times’ newsroom.

At the time, Weiss tweeted: ‘The civil war inside The New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes the (mostly 40+) liberals is the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country. The dynamic is always the same.’

In response, staffers called for Weiss to be fired. 

In her resignation letter, Weiss noted that it took the Times ‘two days and two jobs’ to say the Tom Cotton op-ed ‘fell short of our standards’.

Weiss repeatedly drew criticism during her time at the newspaper. Most recently, she tweeted that there was a 'civil war' brewing inside the Times in relation to the controversy surrounding the publication of the Tom Cotton op-ed

Weiss repeatedly drew criticism during her time at the newspaper. Most recently, she tweeted that there was a ‘civil war’ brewing inside the Times in relation to the controversy surrounding the publication of the Tom Cotton op-ed

The Times ran a column calling the Senator's op-ed 'fascist' after he called on Trump to use the military to crack down on rioting, looting and violence in the wake of George Floyd's death

The Times ran a column calling the Senator’s op-ed ‘fascist’ after he called on Trump to use the military to crack down on rioting, looting and violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death 

The article was initially defended by publisher AG Sulzberger who said the paper aimed to share 'views from across the spectrum'

The newspaper's opinion page editor James Bennet also defended the decision to publish. Bennet later resigned over the ordeal

The article was initially defended by publisher AG Sulzberger (left) who said the paper aimed to share ‘views from across the spectrum’. The newspaper’s opinion page editor James Bennet (right) also defended the decision to publish. Bennet later resigned over the ordeal

She was also among those to sign an open letter published in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine last week that slammed ‘cancel culture’ and warned of an ‘intolerant climate’ for free speech.

Weiss was also criticzed for her opinion on the #MeToo movement after cautioning on immediately believing every woman who comes forward.

When she weighed in on the Brett Kavanaugh controversy, she was slammed for asking on MSNBC if the accusations stemming from his teen years should be ‘disqualifying’. Weiss later admitted that her soundbite about Kavanaugh sounded ‘glib’ or insincere.

Weiss, in her resignation letter, said her opinions had resulted in her being bullied by coworkers.

She described the Times as a ‘hostile work environment’ and criticized management for allowing her coworkers to ‘publicly smear’ her on Twitter and also on company-wide Slack channels.

Weiss said some employees would post an ax emoji next to her name on company Slack channels and others would discuss the need for her to ‘rooted out’ if the NYT was ‘truly inclusive’.

‘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’,’ Weiss wrote in her resignation letter.

‘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.’

She went on to describe that behavior as unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment and constructive discharge.

‘I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage,’ she wrote.

BARI WEISS’ FULL NYT RESIGNATION LETTER:  

Dear A.G.,

It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.

I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I 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. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers. Dean Baquet and others have admitted as much on various occasions. The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming.

I was honored to be part of that effort, led by James Bennet. I am proud of my work as a writer and as an editor. Among those I helped bring to our pages: the Venezuelan dissident Wuilly Arteaga; the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani; and the Hong Kong Christian democrat Derek Lam. Also: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Masih Alinejad, Zaina Arafat, Elna Baker, Rachael Denhollander, Matti Friedman, Nick Gillespie, Heather Heying, Randall Kennedy, Julius Krein, Monica Lewinsky, Glenn Loury, Jesse Singal, Ali Soufan, Chloe Valdary, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Wesley Yang, and many others.

But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. 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.

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

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.’ 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.

There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.

I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.

Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.

What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. 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.

Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.

It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed ‘fell short of our standards.’ We attached an editor’s note on a travel story about Jaffa shortly after it was published because it ‘failed to touch on important aspects of Jaffa’s makeup and its history.’ But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati.

The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people. This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its ‘diversity’; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.

Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. Why? Perhaps because they believe the ultimate goal is righteous. Perhaps because they believe that they will be granted protection if they nod along as the coin of our realm—language—is degraded in service to an ever-shifting laundry list of right causes. Perhaps because there are millions of unemployed people in this country and they feel lucky to have a job in a contracting industry.

Or perhaps it is because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back. Too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the ‘new McCarthyism’ that has taken root at the paper of record.

All this bodes ill, especially for independent-minded young writers and editors paying close attention to what they’ll have to do to advance in their careers. Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.

For these young writers and editors, there is one consolation. As places like The Times and other once-great journalistic institutions betray their standards and lose sight of their principles, Americans still hunger for news that is accurate, opinions that are vital, and debate that is sincere. I hear from these people every day. ‘An independent press is not a liberal ideal or a progressive ideal or a democratic ideal. It’s an American ideal,’ you said a few years ago. I couldn’t agree more. America is a great country that deserves a great newspaper.

None of this means that some of the most talented journalists in the world don’t still labor for this newspaper. They do, which is what makes the illiberal environment especially heartbreaking. I will be, as ever, a dedicated reader of their work. But I can no longer do the work that you brought me here to do—the work that Adolph Ochs described in that famous 1896 statement: ‘to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.’

Ochs’s idea is one of the best I’ve encountered. And I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing. Above all, they must be backed by people willing to live by them.

Sincerely,

Bari

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