By Elliott Nguyen
The New York Times released a statement on Sunday clarifying that the decision to end involvement with freelance editor Lauren Wolfe was not in response to her comments during Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills,” wrote Wolfe, an award-winning journalist, in a since-deleted tweet on Wednesday, Jan. 20 as then-President-elect Joe Biden’s plane touched down outside the nation’s capital.
She also tweeted “The pettiness of the Trump admin not sending a military plane to bring him to D.C. as is tradition is mortifying. Childish.” Wolfe reportedly deleted the tweet after learning that it was Biden’s decision to take his own plane.
Journalist Yashar Ali later reported that Wolfe “had her contract canceled” by the New York Times, with the implication that the cancellation was in response to Wolfe’s tweets. He added that Wolfe had been warned over other tweets in the past.
In a statement to the Washington Post, New York Times spokeswoman Daniella Rhoades Ha said, “There’s a lot of inaccurate information circulating on Twitter. For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters, but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet. Out of respect for the individuals involved, we don’t plan to comment further.”
The Washington Post added, “Wolfe was not a full-time employee and did not have a contract with the publication,” correcting Ali’s report. “[Wolfe] instead worked on a more informal freelance basis.”
News of Wolfe’s removal sparked widespread criticism in a debacle that took place primarily on Twitter.
Journalist and author Sulome Anderson tweeted “Absolutely shocking that @NYTimes fired Lauren Wolfe for her tweet when Thomas Friedman and Bret [Stephens] together have fallen on their face countless times all over their pages … Really shocking gender bias, caving to bad faith criticism and just cruelty.”
Friedman and Stephens are both columnists currently employed by the New York Times, and have each faced backlash for their rhetoric in the past.
A passage from The Times’ ethics handbook itself reads “no one may do anything that damages The Times’ reputation for strict neutrality in reporting on politics and government.”
“We don’t know what we don’t know. So there may be more to the story,” said Donna Shaw, chair of the College’s Journalism and Professional Writing department, referencing the journalism adage in an email.
She also recalled a section of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics that reads, “journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity and impartiality, or may damage credibility,” then finished by clarifying her thoughts. “Those are concepts all news reporters should strive to live by.”