US & Canada

Sarah Jeong: NY Times stands by 'racist tweets' reporter

Sarah Jeong Image copyright Sarahjeong.net
Image caption Sarah Jeong's hiring was met with criticism online

The New York Times has defended a new member of its editorial board who wrote inflammatory tweets about white people.

The newspaper's announcement that it was hiring Sarah Jeong met an outpouring of online criticism after her old posts were unearthed.

In a statement, the Times said that Ms Jeong regrets her remarks and she had been responding to online abuse.

The Times this year fired a new writer after old tweets that caused offence emerged.

Quinn Norton was let go only hours after the newspaper announced her hire in February.

Ms Norton had retweeted a slur about African-Americans, had posted homophobic remarks and said she had befriended neo-Nazis.

Ms Jeong wrote in one tweet from July 2014: "Oh man it's kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men."

One online critic posted a selection of Ms Jeong's other tweets, which contain obscenities.

"Are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins," she said in December 2014.

The South Korea-born journalist, who was raised in the US, also used the hashtag "#CancelWhitePeople" and complained about "white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants".

She attended Harvard Law School and has previously written for the Atlantic, Motherboard, the Washington Post and the New York Times Magazine.

In a statement on Thursday, the newspaper's corporate communications team said Ms Jeong's "journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her the subject of frequent online harassment.

"For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.

"She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media.

"She regrets it, and the Times does not condone it," the statement said, adding that "she understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at the Times".

Ms Jeong tweeted a separate statement, saying she had "engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter-trolling" and that she had "mimicked the language of my harassers".

She included examples of some of the hate speech she said had been directed at her online, including racist slurs.

Conservative critics said the New York Times board's decision to stand by Ms Jeong amounted to an endorsement of discrimination against white men.

"I don't care about sarah jeong's dumb old tweets but it's the Times themselves who set this standard," tweeted Fox News columnist Stephen Miller.

Washington Free Beacon writer Alex Griswold wrote: "If I ever tweeted something racist back in the day, that's only because people of that race were racist to me first. I regret it, and am now absolved."

Update 3 August 2018: This article and its headline were updated after reflecting on Sarah Jeong's statement explaining her actions.