Spiked New York Times column on reporter's exit published by New York Post

An article that was spiked by the New York Times – in which a conservative columnist criticised the newspaper’s handling of a former reporter who left the paper over his use of a racist slur – has been published in full by the New York Post.

The high-profile science and health reporter Donald McNeil Jr resigned from the paper earlier this month following disclosures about his use of racist language on a company-sponsored trip to Peru with high school students in 2019. He apologised for offending his colleagues and hurting the reputation of his former employer.

At the time of his resignation, the executive editor, Dean Baquet, said: “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.”

On Thursday, columnist Bret Stephens told colleagues that a column he had written that criticised Baquet’s statement had been spiked by the paper’s publisher AG Sulzberger, NBC reported.

The New York Times’ opinion editor, Kathleen Kingsbury, reportedly told Stephens the paper would not be publishing the column on Monday night after speaking to Sulzberger.

She told CNN: “We kill columns all the time for various reasons. The bar is especially high for columns that could reflect badly on colleagues. And we decided that this column didn’t reach that bar.”

Then, on Friday, the Post published what it described as the article in full. “Unfit to print,” the front page headline read. “The Post publishes column The Times wouldn’t.”

An editor’s note claimed: “The piece has circulated among Times staffers and others – and it was from one of them, not Stephens himself, that The Post obtained it.”

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The supposed Stephens piece says: This is not a column about the particulars of McNeil’s case. Nor is it an argument that the racial slur in question doesn’t have a uniquely ugly history and an extraordinary capacity to wound. This is an argument about three words: “Regardless of intent.” Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not.”

The incident comes at a time of reckoning for the news organisation. The announcement of McNeil’s departure came on the same day as that of an audio journalist, Andy Mills, who worked on podcasts the Daily and the partially retracted Caliphate, amid allegations of past inappropriate and hostile behaviour towards female colleagues.

The New York Times did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.



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