Media

People At Vox Are Mad That Other People At Vox Support Free Speech

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Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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Some Vox employees appear to be angry that their co-workers support free speech, with infighting spilling out onto social media Tuesday and Wednesday.

The disagreements began after Vox’s editor and co-founder Matthew Yglesias signed an open letter endorsing free speech, the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.

Multiple Vox employees claimed that the letter, published in Harper’s Magazine and titled “A Letter on Open Justice and Debate,” was “anti-trans.” Vox’s critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff wrote a letter to Vox editors – and subsequently posted a version of the letter on Twitter Tuesday – complaining that Yglesias’ decision to sign it made her feel “less safe.”

VanDerWerff continued to explain her view on the letter in a lengthy Twitter thread. She tried to explain why she reads “the letter as containing anti-trans dogwhistles” and linked to another tweet where various phrases regarding transgenders were inserted into the actual letter.

Vox’s political reporter Katelyn Burns and its engagement editor Nisha Chittal both backed VanDerWerff’s claims, according to the Free Beacon. Burns wrote that “the sheer number of signatories who have waded into the transgender debate on the anti-trans side is astounding. I read many of the references to specific gripes in the letter’s text as specifically directed at trans critics.”

“It’s a bunch of mostly white people with platforms at prestigious media outlets complaining that minorities are silencing them….” Chittal tweeted.

The public backlash among co-workers continued Wednesday. Vox’s founder and editor-at-large Ezra Klein tweeted about free speech, later saying it was not directed at Yglesias.

“A lot of debates that sell themselves as being about free speech are actually about power,” Klein tweeted. “And there’s *a lot* of power in being able to claim, and hold, the mantle of free speech defender.” (RELATED: Vox Writer Mad That ‘Ellen’ Producer Had A Reasonable Conversation About Guns With Dana Loesch)

Yglesias responded by asking “should I reply to this with a concrete example or stick to my commitments to you?”

“The idea that I would try to get Matt, literally my co-founder and oldest friend in journalism, fired over this letter is risible,” Klein tweeted Wednesday after his original comment appeared to be directed at his co-worker. “I’ve asked Matt, and others at Vox, to not subtweet colleagues. My mistake here is this read like a subtweet of him, when it honestly wasn’t.”

Aja Romano, a culture staff writer at Vox, also expressed her anger over the letter, calling it “a dehumanizing transphobic whisper network masquerading as reasoned intellectual debate.” She then publicly claimed that “3 trans Vox writers” who spoke out against “the Harper’s list” were “directly targeted (and harassed as a result) by one of the writers on it.”

Journalist Jesse Singal, who also signed the letter, replied to Romano’s claims. He said that he asked her to “provide evidence that ‘many’ writers on the list are against affirming gender care.”

The infighting was not all negatively directed towards Yglesias’s decision to sign the letter, which condemned the media’s “intolerant climate.” Harper’s letter also discussed having “the possibility of good-faith disagreement” and was signed by numerous left-wing figures, the Free Beacon pointed out.

“The reaction to the letter is literally proving the point of the letter,” Vox’s senior correspondent German Lopez noted.

Vox’s senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams also backed what Harper’s letter was expressing, despite some of her employees’ comments about it.