The recent hiring of Asian-American technology journalist Sarah Jeong by The New York Times led to uproar from some quarters after old tweets she wrote that disparaged white people resurfaced online. Conservative fans of President Donald Trump took particular exception to the hiring — and doubled down on their outrage after the newspaper said they that they would stand by the journalist even if they wouldn’t condone her prior tweets.
“[Ms Jeong’s] journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her the subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers,” wrote The Times’ communications team in a statement. “She regrets it, and the Times does not condone it … she understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at the Times.”
Our statement in response to criticism of the hiring of Sarah Jeong. pic.twitter.com/WryIgbaoqg
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) August 2, 2018
Jeong explained her actions, though deeply regrettable, as a satirical attempt at counter-trolling via mimicry.
— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) August 2, 2018
Writers for conservative outlets were unconvinced, claiming that The Times’ failure to take action — especially after their recent hiring and firing of journalist Quinn Norton over tweets that included racial slurs about African-Americans, homophobic remarks, and comments in favor of neo-nazis — amounted to a double standard that endorsed racism against white people.
“Jeong was not hired despite her racist tweets, she was hired because of them,” wrote infamous right-wing site and conspiracy peddler Infowars.
Others defended the decision by noting that women of color face systemic prejudice both online and offline, and that it was unfair to condemn her for trying to stand up to her own racist and sexist harassers. To illustrate the point, Sam Thielman, a white male writer posted a deluge of anti-Semitic comments sent to him by Jeong’s critics after he publicly defended her — an irony made all the more ridiculous by the fact that Theilman isn’t even Jewish.
I've been pretty hard on the guys upset about Sarah Jeong getting hired by the Times today, but I have to say if you take the time to engage with them, a lot of them make really insightful points pic.twitter.com/gwaXyNZWar
— Sam Thielman (@samthielman) August 2, 2018
Jeong’s current employer The Verge issued a strong defense of her and her work, and argued that “hateful campaigns” like that mounted against Jeong should be recognized as “attempts to discredit and undo the vital work of journalists who report on the most toxic communities on the internet.”