The New York Times has demoted its former deputy editor, Jonathan Weisman, after he pointed out a distinction between city and rural voters and after he called out a liberal group for mustering a primary challenge to a black Democratic congresswoman. He also sent angry emails to author and Times contributor Roxane Gay demanding “an enormous apology” for her attacks against him. Perhaps he thought his Jewish heritage protected him from accusations of racism from the left. If so, he was dead wrong. Gay denounced him for having the “audacity and entitlement of white men.”
“Jonathan Weisman met with [Times executive editor Dean Baquet] today and apologized for his recent serious lapses in judgment,” the newspaper announced in a statement. “As a consequence of his actions, he has been demoted and will no longer be overseeing the team that covers Congress or be active on social media. We don’t typically discuss personnel matters but we’re doing so in this instance with Jonathan’s knowledge.”
Weisman, who wrote a book rightly condemning the alt-right and wrongly condemning the Trump administration for supporting anti-Semitism, drew the ire of the left by accusing various Congressmen of not truly representing their districts.
First, he responded to Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid, who attempted to shoot down former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). In explaining her loss to Josh Hawley, McCaskill said, “Free stuff from the government does not play well in the Midwest.”
Attempting to defeat McCaskill’s argument, Shahid argued that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are from the Midwest, and that “Medicare and Social Security are both technically ‘free stuff’ and they play very well.”
“Free stuff from the government does not play well in the Midwest.” -Claire McCaskill
2) Medicare and Social Security are both technically “free stuff” and they play very well.pic.twitter.com/tkFtRoI0W7
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) July 31, 2019
To this, Weisman replied, “Saying [Rashida Tlaib] (D-Detroit) and [Ilhan Omar] (D-Minneapolis) are from the Midwest is like saying [Rep. Lloyd Doggett] (D-Austin) is from Texas or [Rep. John Lewis] (D-Atlanta) is from the Deep South. C’mon.”
I can't get over this. It's horrible on so many levels.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) July 31, 2019
Weisman was clearly trying to make a political point about the differences between representing a liberal urban area and representing a typically conservative rural area. In areas like the Midwest, the Deep South, and Texas, rural areas carry a state’s electoral votes — and often other state-wide elections. Tlaib, Omar, Doggett, and Lewis could be said to represent islands of blue in seas of red.
But Weisman’s good point does not come across, partly because the left has demonized any attacks on “The Squad” as racist, but also partly because Weisman chose Lewis — beloved as a Civil Rights hero — as an example. He later deleted that tweet “because I realize I did not adequately make my point.”
Earlier this morning I tried to make a point about regional differences in politics between urban and rural areas. I deleted the tweets because I realize I did not adequately make my point.
— (((JonathanWeisman))) (@jonathanweisman) July 31, 2019
Weisman’s other unforgivable sin involved calling out Justice Democrats, a far-left group seeking to primary sitting members of Congress for being insufficiently progressive. “Justice Democrats has backed another primary challenger, this one seeking to unseat an African-American Democrat, Joyce Beatty, who represents Columbus,” the Times deputy editor tweeted.
Justice Democrats has backed another primary challenger, this one seeking to unseat an African-American Democrat, Joyce Beatty, who represents Columbus. https://t.co/p662eaNxhc
— (((JonathanWeisman))) (@jonathanweisman) August 7, 2019
Morgan Harper, the candidate Justice Democrats endorsed in order to challenge Beatty, responded with a brief tweet: “I am also black, [Jonathan Weisman].” Weisman replied that the Justice Democrats endorsement “included a photo.”
Justice Democrats compared Weisman’s tweets to Trump’s “go back” tweets, which it characterized as racist. “We must fundamentally change the idea that people of color can’t exemplify the region — or the nation — in which we live,” the group added, interpreting Weisman’s deleted tweet as racist, rather than a discussion of political representation.
Justice Democrats put out a statement about the NYT demoting Jonathan Weisman pic.twitter.com/aj4gLEmSxS
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) August 13, 2019
Roxane Gay interpreted Weisman’s answer to Harper as a suggestion that Harper is not really black. The author suggested he was utterly unqualified for his job.
“Any time you think you’re unqualified for a job remember that this guy, telling a black woman she isn’t black because he looked at a picture and can’t see, has one of the most prestigious jobs in America. Shoot your shot,” Gay tweeted.
Any time you think you’re unqualified for a job remember that this guy, telling a black woman she isn’t black because he looked at a picture and can’t see, has one of the most prestigious jobs in America. Shoot your shot. pic.twitter.com/m2k8Drr5eH
— roxane gay (@rgay) August 7, 2019
In response, Weisman emailed Gay, her assistant, and her publisher, demanding “an enormous apology.” Gay shared screenshots of the emails, tweeting that “the audacity and entitlement of white men is f**king incredible.”
He also emailed my assistant. WTF? pic.twitter.com/RJURk2CHvn
— roxane gay (@rgay) August 8, 2019
Weisman claimed Gay “misconstrued my rather innocuous tweet, willfully or mistakenly, accused me of racism, and incompetence, seemed to want me fired.”
Racism and incompetence are serious charges, and conservatives feel a somewhat justified schadenfreude when they see a liberal accused of racism in the same way so many liberals baselessly accuse conservatives of the same charge.
“This is amazing. Weisman wrote an entire ridiculous book smearing the GOP as a bunch of Nazis, but is demoted for offending Ilhan Omar’s fans,” David Harsanyi, senior editor at The Federalist, tweeted.
This is amazing. Weisman wrote an entire ridiculous book smearing the GOP as a bunch of Nazis, but is demoted for offending Ilham Omar's fans. https://t.co/CMQgqIZnH8
— David Harsanyi (@davidharsanyi) August 13, 2019
Indeed, it seems Weisman may be experiencing some comeuppance for claiming that Trump — whose administration has heavily favored Israel and who himself is very proud of his Jewish daughter and son-in-law — harbors anti-Semitism.
Conservatives may enjoy double schadenfreude as The New York Times is struggling with accusations of racism — for reporting verbatim Trump’s words condemning racism. Sadly, the Times seems to be immediately caving to the left, with no regard for the real meaning behind things denounced as racist.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.