Backlash Mounts After The Washington Post Publishes Story On Private Figure Who Wore Blackface 2 Years Ago

(Photo credit: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Backlash mounted Thursday after the Washington Post published an article about a private figure who wore a blackface costume to a Halloween party two years ago.

The article, published Wednesday, detailed incidents at a 2018 Halloween party hosted by Tom Toles, the publication’s editorial cartoonist.

“A middle-aged white woman named Sue Schafer” wore blackface with a name tag identifying herself as “Megyn Kelly,” who had recently “caused a stir by defending the use of blackface by white people,” the Post wrote.

The article included quotes from numerous people at the party, including Toles and Schafer. The Post noted that Schafer “has spent many hours in therapy talking about” how her behavior was careless, adding that she said she’s “deeply ashamed.” The article notes that its very publication resulted in Schafer being fired from her job.

The decision to write about Schafer’s Halloween costume sparked backlash following publication, as the woman is not a public figure and the incident happened in 2018. The article claimed that the “blackface incident” “resurfaces amid protests.”

Josh Barro, a business columnist for NY Magazine, called for the Washington Post to “explain why it published a feature about an offensive costume a non-public figure work to a private party two years ago.” Barro also wrote that the article does “not meet the paper’s standards,” pointing to the publication’s policies and standards note that “fairness includes relevance.”

“A 3,000-word, two-byline investigation informing you that a woman you have never heard of, who is not a public figure (until now!), wore an offensive Halloween costume two years ago at a WaPo cartoonist’s party,” journalist Jesse Singal tweeted. (RELATED: REPORT: Netflix Pulls ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ Episode Over Blackface Storyline)

“This is one of the funniest and stupidest things to ever be in a newspaper and yet every word is somehow worth reading in order to understand the mindset of some reporters who deemed this worthy of print,” Washington Examiner’s Joe Gabriel Simonson tweeted.

Reason published a subsequent article about the Post Thursday, calling it a “hit job,” adding that it “is a new low for cancel culture.” Robby Soave, the senior editor at Reason, made his case against the story’s publication.

“Resurfaced? How? Did it surface once, and is now surfacing again?” Soave wondered. “Already we’re shifting responsibility because the only reason this incident is ‘surfacing’ at all is that the Post lacked the courage to tell the two women pictured in the article’s photo that this particular story was not newsworthy.”

Senior writer at Tablet Magazine Yair Rosenberg speculated whether WaPo published the article out of fear of “extortion,” although there is no evidence to this theory. Barro responded by writing that “the longer it goes on that nobody at the paper will say anything about the story — not even ‘read this, it’s good’ — the more plausible this seems.” He added that “it would be quite unethical for WaPo if true.”

“The party protagonists went to the Post and threatened to expose this incident involving their cartoonist. Fearing a scandal & NYT-like meltdown, the paper opted to report the story themselves,” Rosenberg suggested.

“Everyone involved in the WaPo ‘investigation’ of the Megyn Kelly blackface costume should be deeply embarrassed,” podcast host and writer Katie Herzog tweeted.

The Washington Post has yet to respond to the criticism or add a note to the article.

“Employees of The Washington Post, including a prominent host, were involved in this incident, which impelled us to tell the story ourselves thoroughly and accurately while allowing all involved to have their say,” Kristine Coratti Kelly, WaPo’s vice president of communications, told the Daily Caller.

“The piece conveys with nuance and sensitivity the complex, emotionally fraught circumstances that unfolded at the party attended by media figures only two years ago where an individual in blackface was not told promptly to leave. America’s grappling with racism has entered a phase in which people who once felt they should keep quiet are now raising their voices in public. The story is a microcosm of what the country is going through right now.”