The New York Times’ Donald McNeil is leaving the company after his “outraged” co-workers signed a letter criticizing how managers handled allegations against him.
McNeil, the newspaper’s top COVID-19 reporter, came under scrutiny in 2019 after allegations that he “repeatedly made racist and sexist remarks throughout” a school trip that where he served as a guide, according to a past report from the Daily Beast.
The Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet explained in an email to staffers at the end of January 2020 that while he started off “outraged and expected to fire” McNeil, his mind was changed after authorizing 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 before adding some cases should result in people being “given another chance.”
Baquet also explained that McNeil made the comments “in the context of discussing an incident that involved racist language.”
In light of Baquet’s decision as executive editor of the newspaper, staffers at the NYT revolted. Over 150 individuals signed a letter to managers explaining that the “community is outraged and in pain” over how McNeil’s situation was handled. (RELATED: NYT Staffer Pleads With Newsroom: ‘We’re Not F**king Part Of The Resistance’)
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 promised staffers that they would “see results.”
Despite Baquet’s original decision not to fire McNeil, the NYT reversed course Friday and announced that the reporter will be leaving the company, NYT reporter Marc Tracy tweeted.
Includes McNeil apology: pic.twitter.com/Ikit7xs08i
— marc tracy (@marcatracy) February 5, 2021
“We are writing to let you know that Donald McNeil Jr. will be leaving the company,” Baquet and Joseph Kahn, the managing editor, wrote to staffers. “Donald joined the Times in 1976 and has done much good reporting over four decades. But we feel that this is the right next step.”
“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” the announcement continued.
McNeil issued a statement regarding the news as well, apologizing and explaining what he says happened. McNeil noted that during the school trip, he was asked whether he believed a student currently in high school should receive a suspension for uttering a racist slur when she was 12 years old.
The reporter said he asked for clarification on whether the girl called someone else the slur or used it in another sense, such as while rapping. He “used the slur itself” while asking the question.
“I should not have done that,” McNeil wrote. “Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot. It is deeply offensive and hurtful. The fact that I even thought I could defend it itself showed extraordinarily bad judgment. For that I apologize.”
The NYT did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.