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The New York Times is defending one of its most controversial star journalists after she doxxed a reporter from a conservative news site who reached out to her for comment about one of her past Twitter posts using the n-word.
Late last week, Washington Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium reached out to Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist for the Times, asking her about a 2016 tweet in which she said there is a “linguistic difference” between the n-word that ends in “a” and the n-word that ends in “er.” Hannah-Jones spelled out both racial slurs in the 2016 tweet.
In response to Sibarium, she posted his inquiry on Twitter, including a screenshot with his phone number – a practice known as doxxing. On Monday she deleted the tweet after she received backlash, and also appears to have scrubbed her entire Twitter history.
Eileen Murphy, a senior vice president of communications for the Times, wrote in an email to National Review that “The inclusion of the phone number was inadvertent and when it was brought to Nikole’s attention, she deleted it.”
However, a Twitter exchange on Saturday – two days before she deleted the tweet – indicates that Hannah-Jones was aware even then that she’d posted Sibarium’s phone number. In the exchange, Uché Blackstock, a Yahoo News medical contributor, replied to Hannah-Jones, “Lol, and he included his phone number and thought you would actually call him,” to which Hannah-Jones replied only “Girl.”
According to the Times’ social media guidelines, “newsroom employees should avoid posting anything on social media that damages our reputation for neutrality and fairness.” According to the guidelines, Times employees are to “always treat others with respect on social media” and avoid making “offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.” Employees who tweet an error or something inappropriate and wish to delete the tweet are directed to “be sure to quickly acknowledge the deletion in a subsequent tweet.”
Washington Free Beacon Editor in Chief Eliana Johnson told National Review in an email that “The behavior and the Times’s disingenuous response speak for themselves.” Sibarium similarly responded that Hannah-Jones’s “behavior speaks for itself.”
Sibarium reached out to Hannah-Jones while he was reporting on Times staffers’ responses to the recent ouster of star science writer Donald McNeil Jr., who acknowledged using the n-word on a 2019 New York Times trip to Peru for high school students. In a statement to his colleagues, McNeil wrote that he was asked at dinner by a student if he thought one of her classmates should have been suspended for using the racial slur in a video she made as a 12-year-old. While conversing with the student, McNeil used the n-word himself, he wrote.
“I should not have done that,” he wrote. “Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot.”
Sibarium was reporting about a heated debate posted to a Facebook group for current and former Times staffers. Some staffers argued that McNeil’s dismissal was appropriate, while others said McNeil deserved “the benefit of the doubt,” and questioned why the newspaper’s union didn’t do more to defend him.
Dean Baquet, the Times’s executive editor, told staff in an email that, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” However, the paper printed the n-word just last week in a profile of a Princeton classics professor, according to the Free Beacon.
Sibarium reached out to Hannah-Jones to ask if she believed that intent made a difference in regard to her tweet. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for The 1619 Project, which aimed to reframe the nation’s history based on the consequences of slavery. Some historians have criticized the project for being factually flawed.