Former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss has confronted CNN’s Brian Stelter after he suggested a controversial column by a Republican senator that she published ‘endangered lives’.
Weiss appeared on Stelter’s media podcast, Reliable Sources, and said she was still angry at the revolt against the June 2020 column, where Senator Tom Cotton said Donald Trump should send in the military to quell George Floyd protests.
Weiss resigned from the paper weeks after the column was published amid an outcry by liberal activists and after more than 1,000 Times staffers signed a letter protesting the publication.
The Times later said it had been wrong to publish the column and blamed a ‘significant breakdown in our editing processes’. Weiss blasted the paper for ‘living in total fear of an internet mob’.
She now runs her own newsletter, on Substack.
Appearing on Stelter’s podcast on Thursday, Weiss said that it would take ‘an epidemic of courage’ to allow open debate within The New York Times.
She asked the host: ‘Do you believe, Brian, that an op-ed can literally put people’s lives in danger?.
‘Do you believe that that op-ed put people’s lives in danger?’
Bari Weiss (left) appeared on Brian Stelter’s podcast on Thursday and discussed the future of the media, plus her thoughts on the June 2020 op ed by Tom Cotton that ultimately led to her departure from The New York Times
A furious internal backlash followed the controversial June 2020 op-ed from Senator Tom Cotton (above)
‘If 1,000 journalists said ‘No, it is wrong that New York Times editors were fired over an op-ed by a Republican senator, that’s insanity, that’s craziness,’ she said.
‘If 1,000 people stood up and said that rather than 1,000 people in the case of Tom Cotton signing a letter saying their life was in danger, the whole news media would be different.
‘It’s really about people standing up, saying no to the mob, saying yes to free speech and yes to openness to debate, and showing that in doing that, they can not just survive the mob but also come out on the other side of it.’
Stelter said that he believed The New York Times should allow those offended by the content to speak out.
‘Doesn’t there need to be room for the people who feel like the op-ed did endanger their lives?’ he asked Weiss.
‘It doesn’t mean there needs to be capitulation, but their voices should be heard, too.’
Weiss replied: ‘Anyone can feel anything. Do you believe that that op-ed put people’s lives in danger?’
She added: ‘I don’t think that op-ed did, and one of the reasons I’m interested in what you do is the idea that everything is problematic, that everything is hostile.
‘These words have been weaponized in order to be used against people in ways that I feel and I fear.’
The op-ed, titled ‘Send in the Troops’, called for federal troops to respond if there was violent rioting in major U.S. cities.
Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger initially stood behind the decision to publish the piece, but the paper’s leadership buckled in the wake of Twitter backlash, much of it led by the paper’s own employees.
Many Times employees tweeted that running Cotton’s essay put ‘black lives in danger,’ including the lives of black reporters.
Then Weiss resigned, citing ‘constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views.’
Weiss has described herself as a ‘left-wing centrist’, but her writing often critiques the perceived excesses of the left, and speaks out against ‘woke’ cancel culture.
‘Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor,’ Weiss wrote in a furious public resignation letter.
‘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.’
Cotton’s op-ed was eviscerated on Twitter by the New York Times community and many readers declared their intent to stop reading the publication altogether
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 messaging channels.
Weiss said some employees would post an axe 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’.
James Bennet left the Times Opinion section last summer following intense criticism from colleagues over various controversies
‘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.
Weiss’s Substack is now attracting widespread attention for its focus on cancel culture, transgender issues and freedom of speech, among other contentious issues.