NY Post Publishes ‘Spiked’ Piece by NY Times Columnist Bret Stephens Calling Out Paper’s Stance on Racist Slurs


Bret Stephens

The New York Post published a column allegedly written by conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens Thursday, after Stephens reportedly said the column was “spiked” by Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger. Stephens’ column was critical of the Times’ handling of renewed controversy over a veteran reporter’s use of a racial slur.

With the headline “Read the column the New York Times didn’t want you to read,” the story starts with an explanatory paragraph claiming that that one of Stephens’ colleagues at the Times provided the NY Post with the column. The NY Post put Stephens’ name in the byline.

Earlier Thursday, NBC News media reporter Dylan Byers tweeted that Stephens told some Times colleagues that Sulzberger “spiked” his column. Stephens reportedly sent the unpublished column to a “small handful” of people within the Times, according to Byers.

Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Mediaite Thursday that Sulzberger did not spike Stephens’ column. “The decision not to run [Stephens’] column was made by Kathleen Kingsbury, the Times opinion editor,” Murphy said.

The column criticized Times executive editor Dean Baquet‘s response to the controversy around Don McNeil, a top Times coronavirus reporter who recently left the newspaper after a Daily Beast report about allegations that he used a racial slur while on a Times-sponsored student trip in 2019. After the Beast report, McNeil admitted to using the n-word in a descriptive context.

Baquet initially told Times staffers that McNeil was subject to an investigation at the time, and it was determined that McNeil’s intentions were not “hateful or malicious.” Days later, after an internal backlash from Times staffers and demand for a renewed investigation, McNeil left the Times, and Baquet told staffers in a note that the Times would not tolerate racist language, “regardless of intent.”

Stephens’ column, as published in the NY Post, focuses on Baquet’s “regardless of intent” statement.

“A hallmark of injustice is indifference to intention,” Stephens writes. “Most of what is cruel, intolerant, stupid and misjudged in life stems from that indifference. Read accounts about life in repressive societies … and what strikes you first is how deeply the regimes care about outward conformity, and how little for personal intention.”

“Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not,” Stephens later writes.

Saying that the Times “has never previously been shy about citing racial slurs in order to explain a point,” Stephens included a quote from late Republican strategist Lee Atwater in his column, which he says the Times has used in articles “at least seven times.” The quote included the repeated use of the n-word, which Stephens did not redact or edit in his column.

“Is this now supposed to be a scandal?” Stephens writes. “A journalism that turns words into totems – and totems into fears – is an impediment to clear thinking and proper understanding.”

A source inside the Times told Mediaite that the decision not to run Stephens’ column had to do with editorial standards, as well as timing, as Baquet walked back the “regardless of intent” policy Thursday and told staffers that when it comes to racist language, “of course intent matters.”

“What Bret says about A.G. spiking it is not accurate. It was Kathleen’s decision to make, and A.G. supported her,” the source said. “Columns have to meet a publishing standard, and when they don’t, we don’t run them. There are many reasons not to run a column. Most important [in this case, the column] was built around the idea of use of racist language regardless of intent. Kathleen knew Dean was going to clarify his position on that, and the column makes no sense in light of that.”

“The Times is not an institution that is afraid to run critical coverage of ourselves,” this source added.

Mediaite reached out to Stephens, the Times, and the NY Post for comment. The Times is declining comment, the Post and Stephens have not yet replied.

Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com

Filed Under: