Writer and editor Bari Weiss leaves New York Times over 'bullying' and 'harassment' from colleagues

Graig Graziosi
·4-min read
Former New York Times opinion writer and editor Bari Weiss appears on Real Time with Bill Maher: Youtube
Former New York Times opinion writer and editor Bari Weiss appears on Real Time with Bill Maher: Youtube

Opinion writer and editor Bari Weiss is leaving the New York Times claiming she has been bullied and harassed by colleagues over her often controversial opinion articles, and alleging that Twitter is the paper's 'ultimate editor'.

Ms Weiss has been a polarising figure for the paper and she frequently generated backlash on social media for her opinions. She is leaving the paper amid a debate in the elite media over the role of journalists and the prevalence of "cancel culture" within the industry.

In a resignation letter posted to her website, she accuses the New York Times of being a paper where "truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else."

She goes on to claim that Twitter is the New York Times' "ultimate editor" and complains that the paper has become a "kind of performance space."

Ms Weiss claims she was bullied for her views and complained that colleagues who criticised her on Twitter weren't punished.

"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," Ms Weiss wrote. "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."

Social censorship through shaming and "cancel culture" was a common theme in Ms Weiss's editorials. She frequently wrote about perceived threats to free speech on college campuses - usually as responses to high-profile center-right speakers having their campus speaking engagements cancelled by protesting students - and argued more broadly that dissenting political voices weren't given the prominence they deserved. Ms Weiss called the perceived oppression of ideas the "new McCarthythism," comparing her Twitter harassment to the government systemically blacklisting and destroying the lives of people who were thought to be Communists.

She suggested that her exit from the paper was, in part, a result of the resignation of the paper's former opinion editor, James Bennet.

"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," she wrote." "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."

In early June, The New York Times published an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton in which he called on the US government to use the US military against Black Lives Matter protesters. The op-ed was criticised on social media for essentially calling for the use of violent, military force to suppress protesters' First Amendment rights and presenting disinformation - like the false claim that Antifa organised the protests - as fact without challenge.

Following the op-ed's publication, staffers at the Times began sharing the sentence "Running this put Black @nytimes staffers in danger," on their Twitter accounts. This apparently led to a company wide discussion about the piece by Mr Cotton and the Times' role as a journalistic entity.

Ms Weiss described this meeting as a "civil war" between the Times staff. She said the conflict was between the "mostly young wokes" and "mostly 40+ liberals." In the days after the discussion, Mr Bennett resigned from his position at the Times.

Kathleen Kingsbury, the acting editorial page editor at the Times, issued a statement Tuesday regarding Ms Weiss' departure.

"We appreciate the many contributions that Bari made to Times Opinion. I'm personally committed to ensuring that The Times continues to publish voices, experiences and viewpoints from across the political spectrum in the Opinion report. We see every day how impactful and important that approach is, especially through the outsized influence The Times' opinion journalism has on national conversation," she wrote.

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