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NYT Newsroom Sees More Infighting As Staffers Express Outrage Over Decision Not To Fire Reporter

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Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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The New York Times has promised to give staffers “results” after many signed a letter expressing anger over the decision not to fire science and health reporter Donald McNeil, The Washington Post reported.

McNeil, the Times’s top COVID-19 reporter, came under scrutiny after allegations that he “repeatedly made racist and sexist remarks throughout” a school trip that he was chosen to guide, according to a past report from the Daily Beast. NYT’s executive editor Dean Baquet later explained that he was first “outraged and expected to fire” McNeil, but changed his mind after an investigation.

“I authorized an investigation and concluded his remarks were offensive and that he showed extremely poor judgment, but that it did not appear to me that his intentions were hateful or malicious,” Baquet wrote in an email to staffers about the allegations. (RELATED: NYT Staffer Pleads With Newsroom: ‘We’re Not F**king Part Of The Resistance’)

Baquet added that in some cases, such as with McNeil, “people should be told they were wrong and given another chance.” McNeil made the comments “in the context of discussing an incident that involved racist language.” He was “formally disciplined” and “not given a pass,” Baquet assured employees at the Times.

“The company has a responsibility to take that experience seriously,” staffers wrote in response to the decision according to WaPo. They also said that they “feel disrespected” over the outcome.

“Our community is outraged and in pain,” staffers also noted, according to the Daily Beast. “Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”

Over 150 staffers signed the letter, which demanded both another investigation and an apology from McNeil, WaPo reported. Baquet, chief executive Meredith Kopit Levien and publisher A.G. Sulzberger responded to the letter on Wednesday and assured employees that they “largely agree with” them.

The trio also promised to “examine the way we manage behavioral problems among members of the staff.”

“We are determined to learn the right lessons from this incident,” they responded. “You will see results.”

This response is a stark difference from Baquet’s initial determination to allow some individuals, like McNeil, “another chance.”

After backing a decision to post an op-ed from Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, which caused public uproar among employees in June 2020, the NYT eventually apologized for publishing the piece.

The NYT did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.