Scroll to the bottom for an update.
On Wednesday, the New York Times hired Sarah Jeong to join their editorial board. Shortly thereafter, Jeong’s old racist tweets emerged.
The tweets aren’t exactly ancient history. In 2014 and 2015, Jeong — senior writer at the Verge — unleashed a few Twitter tirades against people with a lighter complexion. She seems to have deleted them now, but screenshots showing the tweets (and her new Twitter bio as “soon to be editorial board @nytimes”) have surfaced on the Internet.
“Dumba** f**king white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs p**sing on fire hydrants,” Jeong tweeted in November 2014. Ouch! Not only a profanity-laced tirade, but a tirade comparing people to dogs because of the color of their skin!
“Are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins,” she wondered in December 2014. Make no mistake, she suggested a whole race of people were unfit for above ground habitation due to the color of their skin.
In July 2014, Jeong admitted to taking a sick pleasure from being cruel to people based on the color of their skin. “It’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men,” she confided. This confession did not specify what Jeong did to men based on their age and the color of their skin, but she did admit taking pleasure in cruelty.
At one point, this woman now headed to the New York Times jokingly tweeted about eugenics. “White people have stopped breeding. You’ll all go extinct soon. That was my plan all along,” Jeong tweeted.
This is just a sampling. Jeong made even more racist comments on Twitter.
Twitter user Thomas Wictor shared the screenshots (and links) after reporting that “angry racist [Sarah Jeong] has pre-blocked me.” He then noted that she “hates white people.”
Greg Pollowitz, an editor at Twitchy, tweeted “congratulations to [Sarah Jeong], new director for Guardians of the Galaxy 3.”
Congratulations to @sarahjeong, new director for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
— Greg Pollowitz (@GPollowitz) August 2, 2018
This quip referred to the controversy over “Guardians of the Galaxy” (201$) director James Gunn’s tweets that seemed to joke about pedophilia. The stars of that series defended Gunn afterwards, suggesting he should not be fired from the franchise over old messages for which he was repentant.
“We are not here to defend his jokes of many years ago but rather to share our experience having spent many years together on set making Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2. The character he has shown in the wake of his firing is consistent with the man he was every day on set, and his apology, now and from years ago when first addressing these remarks, we believe is from the heart, a heart we all know, trust, and love,” the stars (including Chris Pratt) wrote in a statement.
“In casting each of us to help him tell the story of misfits who find redemption, he changed our lives forever. We believe the theme of redemption has never been more relevant than now,” they added. “There is little due process in the court of public opinion. … We hope Americans from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponizing mob mentality.”
This statement was an important call to civility and restraint in an over-politicizing America, and Pollowitz was right to make the connection between Jeong and Gunn.
However, Jeong has yet to publicly apologize for her old tweets. Although the tweets were directed against white people, they were still racist and should be condemned because they involved judging people on the color of their skin.
Especially in a time of incivility, when writers in the New York Times justify hounding Trump administration officials in public based on the accusation that Trump is a “professional racist,” America’s newspaper of record should reconsider hiring a woman with clear racist statements, unless she publicly disavows them.
Jeong should apologize and the New York Times should come out with a statement condemning the tweets. While Jeong should not be fired over these four-year-old statements, she should have to demonstrate that she holds no racial animus, especially since she will be serving at the editorial board of America’s newspaper of record.
Update: New York Times statement.
The New York Times published a statement in response to this criticism.
Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment.
For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and The Times does not condone it.
We had candid conversations with Sarah as part of our thorough vetting process, which included a review of her social media history. She understands this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at The Times and we are confident that she will be an important voice for the editorial board moving forward.
The Times did not provide examples of this alleged racist harassment. Jeong herself, however, did post a tweet as an example.
— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) August 2, 2018
“I engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter-trolling,” Jeong explained. “While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers.”
That seems a rather weak apology. Furthermore, The Times would never hire anyone in the opposite position. It seems Jeong is contrite, and that is good. All the same, she did attempt to defend her racist remarks as a response to attacks — a defense that would never fly for an instant if any white person had tweeted racist attacks and then said he or she was merely responding to Jeong’s tweets.