Top New York Times reporter RESIGNS and apologizes for ‘bad judgement’ over use of the N-word

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Donald McNeil Jr. (above) resigned Friday over his use of the N-word

Donald McNeil Jr. (above) resigned Friday over his use of the N-word

Donald McNeil Jr. (above) resigned Friday over his use of the N-word 

A top New York Times reporter has resigned and apologized for his ‘extraordinarily bad judgement’ over his use of the N-word after his Pulitzer Prize-winning colleague Nikole Hannah-Jones threatened to launch her own investigation into him. 

In a letter to staff Friday, Donald McNeil Jr. announced he was standing down from the paper after 45 years saying he ‘originally thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended’ but now realized ‘it cannot.’

Top bosses had previously said he should be ‘given another chance’ saying McNeil hadn’t used the word with ‘malicious or hateful intent’ during the Times-sponsored school trip but also changed tact Friday telling staff ‘we do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.’

The ousting of the man who was the paper’s star COVID-19 reporter came after a group of 150 staffers sent a letter to the executive leadership Wednesday stating they were ‘deeply disturbed’ by the paper’s handling of the incident and demanding a full investigation into ‘newly surfaced complaints’ against McNeil. 

Hannah-Jones, the reporter behind the 1619 Project which aims to reframe America’s history to put the impact of slavery at the center of the narrative, also vowed to call parents and students who took part in the trip in question to find out what McNeil said and in what context, sources told the Daily Beast.   

The leadership team responded to the letter vowing to ‘improve our workplace culture’ and promising staffers they will see ‘results’ over how the company handles issues. 

The Daily Beast first reported last week that multiple students and parents had lodged complaints against McNeil back in 2019 after he allegedly used the N-word, said white privilege does not exist and made disparaging comments about black people during a company-sponsored school trip to Peru. 

The Times has been rocked by a number of scandals of late. The same day McNeil resigned, audio producer Andy Mills also announced he had left the paper in the midst of sexual harassment claims and the Caliphate podcast embarrassment.  

McNeil broke his silence over the 2019 incident in an email to the Times staff Friday announcing his exit where he issued an apology to both his colleagues and the students on the trip. 

‘I should not have done that,’ he said. ‘Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot.’

McNeil admitted his use of the racial slur was ‘deeply offensive and hurtful’ and that his initial thoughts he could defend his actions also showed ‘extraordinarily bad judgement.’

The top New York Times reporter resigned and apologized for his 'extraordinarily bad judgement' over his use of the N-word in a letter to staff Friday (above)

The top New York Times reporter resigned and apologized for his 'extraordinarily bad judgement' over his use of the N-word in a letter to staff Friday (above)

The top New York Times reporter resigned and apologized for his ‘extraordinarily bad judgement’ over his use of the N-word in a letter to staff Friday (above)

The veteran journalist described the 2019 incident saying he said the N-word when asked by one of the students whether he believed a classmate should be suspended for using the racist slur. 

‘On a 2019 New York Times trip to Peru for high school students, I was asked at dinner by a student whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she had made as a 12-year-old in which she used a racial slur,’ he said, according to the Washington Post which obtained a copy of the note.

‘To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself.’ 

He extended his ‘sincerest apology’ to the students on the trip as well as his colleagues who he said he ‘let down.’ 

‘For offending my colleagues – and for anything I’ve done to hurt The Times, which is an institution I love and whose mission I believe in and try to serve – I am sorry. 

‘I let you all down,’ he wrote. 

McNeil’s message to staff was included in an email sent from Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn to staffers Friday where they vowed not to tolerate racist language and to better tackle issues of workplace misconduct. 

‘We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,’ they wrote. 

Hannah-Jones, the reporter behind the 1619 Project, vowed to call parents and students who took part in the trip to find out what happened, sources said

Hannah-Jones, the reporter behind the 1619 Project, vowed to call parents and students who took part in the trip to find out what happened, sources said

Hannah-Jones, the reporter behind the 1619 Project, vowed to call parents and students who took part in the trip to find out what happened, sources said

His resignation came after 150 staffers wrote a letter to bosses citing new allegations of 'bias against people of color' and slamming the paper's handling of the incident

His resignation came after 150 staffers wrote a letter to bosses citing new allegations of 'bias against people of color' and slamming the paper's handling of the incident

His resignation came after 150 staffers wrote a letter to bosses citing new allegations of ‘bias against people of color’ and slamming the paper’s handling of the incident

‘We are committed to building a news report and company that reflect our core values of integrity and respect, and will work with urgency to create clearer guidelines and enforcement about conduct in the workplace, including red-line issues on racist language.’

McNeil’s departure was a marked turnaround from last week when the Times responded to the Beast’s expose to say it had conducted an investigation and decided not to fire him because they believed he showed ‘poor judgment’ but did not use the words with ‘hateful or malicious’ intent.

The paper faced a backlash over its handling of the crisis with a group of over 150 staffers sending a letter to execs Wednesday both slamming their handling of the scandal and calling for a full investigation and an apology from McNeil.

The letter has not been made public but The Daily Beast reported that staff wrote in it: ‘The company has a responsibility to take that experience seriously.’ 

The company employs 4,300 people, of which some 1,600 are journalists.  

‘Our community is outraged and in pain,’ the employees wrote adding that, as McNeil’s colleagues, they ‘feel disrespected by his actions.’  

Employees called on the Times to fully investigate both the 2019 trip as well ‘any newly surfaced complaints’ that have arisen in the days since the incident came to light. 

They wrote that a number of current and former colleagues have since come forward to complain of ‘bias against people of color in [McNeil’s] work and in interactions with colleagues over a period of years’. 

The nature of these complaints is not known.  

Executive Editor Dean Baquet. Top bosses had previously said he should be 'given another chance' saying McNeil hadn't used the word with 'malicious or hateful intent' but also changed tact Friday telling staff 'we do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent'

Executive Editor Dean Baquet. Top bosses had previously said he should be 'given another chance' saying McNeil hadn't used the word with 'malicious or hateful intent' but also changed tact Friday telling staff 'we do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent'

Executive Editor Dean Baquet. Top bosses had previously said he should be ‘given another chance’ saying McNeil hadn’t used the word with ‘malicious or hateful intent’ but also changed tact Friday telling staff ‘we do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent’

As well as hitting out at McNeil, the staff members also took aim at their employer writing that they were ‘deeply disturbed’ by the paper’s handling of the allegations and demanding a probe into how it was initial dealt with.  

The letter hit out at the paper for its ‘seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, [while they had] 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.’ 

McNeil fast became one of the Times’s top reporters covering the pandemic less than six months after the trip when he is accused of making offensive and racist comments.  

‘The company has a responsibility to take that experience seriously,’ the staffers wrote.   

‘[Company guidelines] make clear that what matters is how an act makes the victims feel; [McNeil’s] victims weren’t shy about decrying his conduct on the trip,’ the letter read. 

McNeil, a 45-year veteran of the paper, (above) was accused of using the racial slur and making racist and derogatory comments while on a Times-branded student trip to Peru in 2019

McNeil, a 45-year veteran of the paper, (above) was accused of using the racial slur and making racist and derogatory comments while on a Times-branded student trip to Peru in 2019

McNeil, a 45-year veteran of the paper, (above) was accused of using the racial slur and making racist and derogatory comments while on a Times-branded student trip to Peru in 2019 

Scandals that rocked the New York Times in 2020 

June 7: New York Times’ opinion editor, James Bennet, resigned following a controversial op-ed from Senator Tom Cotton. The opinion piece, entitled Send in the Troops, advocated using federal troops to quell unrest across the US caused by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

Bennet, who had revealed in a meeting that he had not read Cotton’s piece before it was posted online, had defended it following the initial protests, saying it was important to hear from all points of view. 

Yet more than 800 staff members signed a letter protesting its publication. 

Bennet then resigned from his position after the Times disowned the incendiary opinion piece.

Following a review, the newspaper said Cotton’s piece should not have been published, at least not without substantial revisions. 

July 14: One of Bennett’s hires, conservative opinion editor writer Bari Weiss, announced she had quit in a scathing letter that slammed the newspaper for fostering an ‘illiberal environment’ that allowed her to be bullied by coworkers.

Weiss, who joined the Times in 2017, said the paper of record was among the media institutions now betraying their standards and losing sight of their principles as she accused them of only publishing stories that ‘satisfy the narrowest of audiences’.   

In her lengthy resignation letter addressed to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, Weiss claimed that intellectual curiosity and risk-taking was now a ‘liability’ at the Times.

The controversial editor and writer said the opinions of those on Twitter had become the newspaper’s ‘ultimate editor’.

Weiss also accused the outlet of creating a ‘hostile work environment’ for employees that essentially had anything other than left-of-center views.  

She says this mentality resulted in her being constantly bullied by coworkers who have called her a ‘Nazi and a racist’ because of her ‘own forays into wrongthink’.

Staffers had previously called for Weiss to be fired after her tweets regarding the Tom Cotton scandal. 

September: Trump repeatedly criticized the New York Times 1619 Project claiming it seeks to ‘change our history’. 

Trump was asked about instructors using the project, named after the year the first ship with African slaves arrived in the U.S., to teach slavery in America and whether he wanted the subject to be taught. 

‘We grew up with a certain history and now they’re trying to change our history. Revisionist history,’ Trump claimed.  

Senator Cotton was also caught up in this incident, introducing legislation that would ban schools from teaching the curriculum through the Saving American History Act of 2020. 

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Staff members demanded McNeil apologize to the students and parents who attended the tour in question, tour staffers, as well as his colleagues.  

Three top bosses – Baquet, Publisher A.G. Sulzberger and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien – were forced to defend their handling of the complaints responding in a joint email just hours later that they ‘largely agree’ with staff concerns.    

They told staff they had been discussing their concerns and promised to ‘examine the way we manage behavioral problems among members of the staff’. 

‘Every member of our leadership team has been seized with the urgency of addressing the problems raised in the letter,’ read the email, seen by The Washington Post.

The execs said they planned to ‘take concrete actions to improve our workplace culture’ and were determined to ‘learn the right lessons from this incident.’  

‘You will see results,’ they promised.   

While they said they ‘understand that when a distressing incident like this arises, people do not want to hear calls to ‘be patient,’ they emphasized that issues involving ‘legal and union protections’ can take time. 

‘We ourselves are impatient,’ the bosses wrote, adding that: ‘The three of us have no higher priority than getting this right.’  

McNeil, a 45-year veteran of the paper, was accused of using the racial slur and making racist and derogatory comments while on a Times-branded student trip to Peru in 2019.   

At least 26 students took part in the $5,000-a-head Times ‘Student Journey’ that focused on community-based health care in the country with McNeil selected by the Times to help lead the trip as an expert journalist.  

At least six students or their parents complained after the trip that McNeil used racially insensitive or racist language, the Daily Beast first reported. 

Two students said he used the N-word and said he didn’t believe white privilege exists while three others claimed he made racist remarks and stereotypical comments about black teens.  

‘I expect immediate action on the actions taken by Donald, I am deeply disappointed about the New York Times because of the comments he made during our trip. I think firing him would even be appropriate,’ one traveler complained after the trip. 

‘Not only did Donald say various racist comments on numerous occasions, but he was also disrespectful to many students during mealtimes and in other settings,’ another stated in their review.

‘I would change the journalist. He was a racist,’ a third person wrote. 

‘He used the ‘N’ word, said horrible things about black teenagers, and said white supremacy doesn’t exist.’ 

‘He made students in the program feel uncomfortable with his remarks. I was really disappointed after hearing great things about his work,’ added a fourth participant.  

The Times confirmed last week it had investigated McNeil over the allegations and that he had been ‘disciplined.’

‘In 2019, Donald McNeil, Jr. participated in a Student Journeys as an expert. We subsequently became aware of complaints by some of the students on the trip concerning certain statements Donald had made during the trip,’ the Times said.

‘We conducted a thorough investigation and disciplined Donald for statements and language that had been inappropriate and inconsistent with our values. 

‘We found he had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language. In addition, we apologized to the students who had participated in the trip.’ 

It is not clear how McNeil was disciplined. 

Executive editor Dean Baquet also sent an email to staff last Thursday saying an investigation into the incident found McNeil’s intentions were not ‘hateful or malicious’ and that the reporter should be ‘given another chance.’  

‘When I first heard the story, I was outraged and expected I would fire him. 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.  

‘I believe that in such cases people should be told they were wrong and given another chance. He was formally disciplined. He was not given a pass.’ 

Baquet and assistant managing editor Carolyn Ryan also met with Times journalists last Friday to speak about their concerns, the Beast reported.  

McNeil, whose writing on the coronavirus pandemic over the last year has been submitted for a Pulitzer prize, has not published any work on the Times since before the Beast story broke on January 28. 

McNeil’s exit comes the same day as that of another Times journalist who was also under scrutiny for past behavior.  

New York Times audio producer Andy Mills also resigned Friday amid harassment allegations He worked on the controversial Caliphate series that had been tricked by the story of a fantasist

New York Times audio producer Andy Mills also resigned Friday amid harassment allegations He worked on the controversial Caliphate series that had been tricked by the story of a fantasist

New York Times audio producer Andy Mills also resigned Friday amid harassment allegations He worked on the controversial Caliphate series that had been tricked by the story of a fantasist

Caliphate's host Rukmini Callimachi (pictured above) has been reassigned within the New York Times to cover higher education, it was  revealed on Friday

Caliphate's host Rukmini Callimachi (pictured above) has been reassigned within the New York Times to cover higher education, it was  revealed on Friday

Caliphate’s host Rukmini Callimachi (pictured above) has been reassigned within the New York Times to cover higher education, it was revealed on Friday

In December, the Times retracted much of the story on which popular Caliphate podcast had been built after it emerged that the team had been tricked by a fantasist

In December, the Times retracted much of the story on which popular Caliphate podcast had been built after it emerged that the team had been tricked by a fantasist

In December, the Times retracted much of the story on which popular Caliphate podcast had been built after it emerged that the team had been tricked by a fantasist

Audio producer Andy Mills, who was involved in the controversial Caliphate series, posted a resignation letter posted to his website Friday claiming he was stepping down not due to the problems with Caliphate, but because of the stories now being shared about his ‘past personal conduct’.

Mills has been at the center of sexual harassment, including references in a New York Magazine article that reported he had been the subject of complaints during his time at ‘Radiolab’.

The article included claims from women he worked with that said he asked them for dates, gave unsolicited back rubs and poured beer on the head of one woman in a bar. 

Mills said in his resignation note on Friday that the Times had defended him publicly when the article was published just two months before the start of Caliphate.

He said that after being cautioned for his conduct in WNYC, when he joined the Times in 2016, he ‘was open with my bosses and colleagues about this experience and what I’d learned from it’.

He said that resigning for the Times were ‘not words I ever wanted to write’ as he noted he ‘never even imagined that I would get the chance to live in New York City or to work in media – let alone at the paper of record’.

Mills continued that he was ‘proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish with Caliphate’ and that ‘getting any aspect of any story wrong, by any degree, is a journalist’s worst nightmare’. 

The producer’s resignation comes as the Daily Beast reported Friday that Caliphate’s host Rukmini Callimachi has been reassigned within the paper to cover higher education.  

The Caliphate podcast, which featured Canadian-Pakistani man Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, who claimed to have worked as an ISIS executioner, has caused a massive fallout for the Times. 

In December the Times was forced to acknowledge it had been misled in the production of the series by Chaudhry, who had fabricated his story and paper returned a coveted Peabody Award that the project earned. 

This is just the latest saga to rock the Times in recent months.

The paper divided opinion over its disciplinary action against another staff member last month.  

The subsequent backlash against the paper comes after it took a more heavy-handed approach to disciplining one of its other employees, when it fired editor Lauren Wolfe (above) last month following a tweet about Joe Biden's inauguration

The subsequent backlash against the paper comes after it took a more heavy-handed approach to disciplining one of its other employees, when it fired editor Lauren Wolfe (above) last month following a tweet about Joe Biden's inauguration

The subsequent backlash against the paper comes after it took a more heavy-handed approach to disciplining one of its other employees, when it fired editor Lauren Wolfe (above) last month following a tweet about Joe Biden’s inauguration

Lauren Wolfe was axed after tweeting: 'Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills'

Lauren Wolfe was axed after tweeting: 'Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills'

Lauren Wolfe was axed after tweeting: ‘Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills’

The week before the allegations surfaced against McNeil, it emerged the Times had ended the contract of editor Lauren Wolfe following a tweet about Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

Wolfe, who joined the paper last May, had tweeted days earlier that she had ‘chills’ watching Biden’s plane landing at Andrew Air Force Base shortly before his inauguration.

‘Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills,’ she posted.   

Wolfe also tweeted that Trump was ‘mortifying’ and ‘childish’ for refusing to send Biden a military plane to bring him to DC. 

She later deleted that tweet after learning Biden had made the choice not to take a military plane. 

Wolfe’s contract was ended with the paper with the editor claiming she was fired over the ‘chills’ tweet ‘because I expressed emotion publicly on something I should not have, according to the publication.’  

Meanwhile, the Times claimed her dismissal was not on the basis of the tweet alone, but did not comment any further on the reasons for letting her go.   

Prior to this editorial page editor James Bennet who was once tipped to take over Baquet in the top role resigned after publishing a controversial op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) 

The piece, entitled Send in the Troops, advocated using federal troops to quell unrest across the US sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

More than 800 staff members signed a letter protesting its publication. 

———————————————————————-

New York Times journalist quits over claims he is a ‘predator and a dangerous threat to colleagues’ – as his collaborator on discredited ‘Caliphate’ podcast is moved from terror beat 

A New York Times journalist at the center of sexual harassment claims has resigned, while protesting that his previous mistakes were being inaccurately used to transform him ‘into a symbol of larger societal evils’.

Audio producer Andy Mills had been involved in the controversial Caliphate series. In December, the Times retracted much of the story on which the popular podcast had been built after it emerged that the team had been tricked by a fantasist.

Yet the scandal over the editorial errors made in the creation of the series also resulted in the resurfacing of allegations of harassment made against Mills during his time working at WNYC.

Mills in a resignation letter posted to his website on Friday claimed that he was stepping down not due to the problems with Caliphate, but because of the stories now being shared about his ‘past personal conduct’.

The producer’s resignation comes as the Daily Beast reports that Caliphate’s host Rukmini Callimachi has been reassigned within the paper to cover higher education.  

Mills had faced previous backlash over claims of misconduct in the workplace, including references in a New York Magazine article that reported he had been the subject of complaints during his time at ‘Radiolab’.

The article included claims from women he worked with that said he asked them for dates, gave unsolicited back rubs and poured beer on the head of one woman in a bar. 

In a resignation letter posted to his website on Friday, audio producer at the Times Andy Mills claimed that he was stepping down not due to the problems with Caliphate, but because of the stories now being shared about his 'past personal conduct' (as pictured above)

In a resignation letter posted to his website on Friday, audio producer at the Times Andy Mills claimed that he was stepping down not due to the problems with Caliphate, but because of the stories now being shared about his 'past personal conduct' (as pictured above)

In a resignation letter posted to his website on Friday, audio producer at the Times Andy Mills claimed that he was stepping down not due to the problems with Caliphate, but because of the stories now being shared about his ‘past personal conduct’ (as pictured above)

Mills claims he remains proud of the team that produced Caliphate

Mills claims he remains proud of the team that produced Caliphate

Mills claims he remains proud of the team that produced Caliphate 

Mills claimed that the original allegations and his 'past mistakes' had been added to with 'gross exaggerations and baseless claims', as pictured in his resignation letter above

Mills claimed that the original allegations and his 'past mistakes' had been added to with 'gross exaggerations and baseless claims', as pictured in his resignation letter above

Mills claimed that the original allegations and his ‘past mistakes’ had been added to with ‘gross exaggerations and baseless claims’, as pictured in his resignation letter above

Mills said in his resignation note on Friday that the Times had defended him publicly when the article was published just two months before the start of Caliphate.

He said that after being cautioned for his conduct in WNYC, when he joined the Times in 2016, he ‘was open with my bosses and colleagues about this experience and what I’d learned from it’.

He said that resigning for the Times were ‘not words I ever wanted to write’ as he noted he ‘never even imagined that I would get the chance to live in New York City or to work in media – let alone at the paper of record’.

Mills continued that he was ‘proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish with Caliphate’ and that ‘getting any aspect of any story wrong, by any degree, is a journalist’s worst nightmare’.

‘When it came to fact-checking support for the project, the Times’ leadership told us that they had their own internal system in place for stories of this nature,’ Mills claimed.

‘That system broke down. And they did not blame us.

‘But in the meantime, another story emerged online: that my lack of punishment came down to entitlement and male privilege. That accusation gave some the opportunity to resurface my past personal conduct.’

Mills admitted that he previously ‘made mistakes that I wish I could take back’ while attending meetups during his tenure at WNYC where he ‘looked for love’ and ‘earned a reputation as a flirt.’.

‘Eight years ago, during a team meeting, I gave a colleague a back rub. Seven years ago, I poured a drink on a coworker’s head at a drunken bar party. I look back at those actions with extraordinary regret and embarrassment,’ he said. 

Mills added that once he was cautioned over the behavior, he ‘took this reckoning seriously and I continued to work at WNYC for nearly two more years without further incident’.

‘At the Times, I have strived to continue to grow and be a better co-worker and person, and not repeat the mistakes of my 20s,’ he said. 

Yet in his letter, Mills claimed that the original allegations and his ‘past mistakes’ had been added to with ‘gross exaggerations and baseless claims’.

‘Several people have even alleged that I am a predator and a dangerous threat to my colleagues,’ he wrote.

‘I have been transformed into a symbol of larger societal evils. As a journalist, it has been especially discouraging and upsetting to see fellow journalists make such claims or retweet them.

‘The entire experience has been extraordinarily painful. I know I’m not supposed to say that because people will claim that I’m trying to make myself the victim … But public shaming is very painful. That is the truth. So is leaving the job you love.’

Andy Mills and Rukmini Callimachi were two of the biggest names involved in Caliphate

Andy Mills and Rukmini Callimachi were two of the biggest names involved in Caliphate

Andy Mills and Rukmini Callimachi were two of the biggest names involved in Caliphate

The producer said that his resignation came as a ‘it is in the best interest of both myself and my team that I leave the company at this time’.

‘I do this with no joy and a heavy heart,’ he concluded.

‘At some point, maybe I’ll tell this story more fully, but I got into this work to tell other people’s stories. And for now, I’m going to get back to that.’

Mills’ resignation was also confirmed in a memo to staff from the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, and managing editor, Joe Kahn, yet they did not go into details about his decision to leave.

‘We know this is a difficult stretch for our audio team,’ they stated.

‘We are committed to helping build the systems and structures necessary to support audio’s rapid growth and management needs and making the team a far more integrated part of the newsroom,’ the memo added.

‘We owe each other a culture of collaboration, collegiality and respect in our workplace.

‘We all want and need a culture in which any of us feels comfortable coming forward with complaints or concerns and can trust they will be examined fully and fairly. It is essential to making sure that we can do our best work.’

The Caliphate podcast has caused a massive fallout for the Times which appeared to culminate December when it acknowledged that it had been misled in the production of the series by Canadian-Pakistani man Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, who had fabricated his story of working as an ISIS executioner.

Yet the backlash continued even further as the Times treatment of the staff involved in the podcast was called into question, and as the actions of some of the journalists themselves were also criticized.

On Friday, the Daily Beast confirmed that host Callimachi, who was formerly one of the paper’s highest-profile reporters on ISIS and extremism in the Middle East, is moving to higher education, covering Ivy League schools and the goings on at college campuses across the country.

And Daily podcast host Michael Barbaro was forced to repeatedly apologize after his personal links to the show emerged and it was reported that he was privately messaging and blocking Twitter users who criticized Caliphate.

In January, a group of 20 influential public radio stations condemned the Times for a ‘lack of transparency’ in Barbaro’s role.

The host was in December tasked with speaking to the Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet in an episode of The Daily – which is also broadcast on public radio – in which the paper retracted much of the story on which popular series Caliphate had been built.

Yet in hosting the episode, Barbaro failed to disclose that much of the production team involved in ‘Caliphate’ had come from ‘The Daily’ – and that he is engaged to the series’ executive producer Lisa Tobin.

According to NPR, Barbaro also pressured at least five journalists via social media to play down the errors in Caliphate and to get them to pull back their public criticism of the series.

In a letter sent to the New York Times Audio division, the Public Radio Program Directors Association said it had to question the paper’s decisions as they needed to ensure their programming upheld ‘the high standards that our listeners expect’.

The association accused the Times of having a ‘serious lapse in judgment’ in also allowing Barbaro to host the thirty-minute retraction episode and said that the decision was ‘flawed’.

‘How are we to trust that difficult questions would be asked, answers would be demanded, and the truth be sought,’ the station executives asked.

‘This was a moment for transparency, that moment is now lost, and there should be accountability for this lapse in judgment.’

The letter had also raised concerns over the presence of Mills, highlighting that several women had come forward during his time at WNYC.

Mills had presented the episode of The Daily coming straight after the Caliphate retraction. He had been a co-creator and co-star the series, acting as sidekick to main ‘Caliphate’ host Rukmini Callimachi.

While Callimachi has been reassigned within the Times, the letter questioned why Mills, at the time, was being given ‘greater visibility’.

‘We fully recognize that this is a vast simplification of the situation, we understand the complexity of this issue and the many considerations that went into making the decision,’ the letter continued.

‘It seems, however, that the optics of this decision may not have been carefully considered. Over the past several years, public media has undertaken strenuous efforts to create diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.

‘We have felt the inequity, exclusion and dominant white culture since #MeToo, carrying forward to the Black Lives Matter movement and the important cultural reckoning we experience in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.’

Michael Barbaro is engaged to Lisa Tobin, who as an executive producer on ‘Caliphate’, but he failed to disclose his personal link to the series on The Daily episode about the retraction

A group of 20 influential public radio stations condemned the New York Times for a 'lack of transparency' after it emerged the star host of 'The Daily' Michael Barbaro is engaged to the executive producer of 'Caliphate' Lisa Tobin, pictured together above

A group of 20 influential public radio stations condemned the New York Times for a 'lack of transparency' after it emerged the star host of 'The Daily' Michael Barbaro is engaged to the executive producer of 'Caliphate' Lisa Tobin, pictured together above

A group of 20 influential public radio stations condemned the New York Times for a ‘lack of transparency’ after it emerged the star host of ‘The Daily’ Michael Barbaro is engaged to the executive producer of ‘Caliphate’ Lisa Tobin, pictured together above

Michael Barbaro and Lisa Tobin pictured working together above

Michael Barbaro and Lisa Tobin pictured working together above

Michael Barbaro and Lisa Tobin pictured working together above

The letter added that the Times’ decisions on Barbaro and Mills were ‘not just tone deaf’ but ‘blind to the current landscape in which we now exist’.

‘The times are changing and yet based on this decision, it appears that The Times is not changing along with them,’ it claimed.

In a response seen by the Washington Post, the Times said that Barbaro ‘deeply regrets’ placing pressure on reporters from other publications to control the spin on Caliphate’s grievous editorial errors.

Yet it argued that it did not think that Barbaro was required to disclose his relationship with Tobin during the retraction episode as it was ‘an audio version of our editors’ note, not an accountability interview’.

Last December, the Times admitted to ‘an institutional failure’ in the production of its podcast ‘Caliphate’ by giving ‘too much credence’ to the story of a man now revealed as a fantasist pretending to be a terrorist.

In a devastating internal review released, it was found that the paper had failed to corroborate the sensationalist claims made by Chaudhry and that the podcast team was duped by his fake story of working as an ISIS executioner.

 

A group of 20 radio stations in the Public Radio Program Directors Association voiced their concerns in January in a letter to the New York Times Audio Division

A group of 20 radio stations in the Public Radio Program Directors Association voiced their concerns in January in a letter to the New York Times Audio Division

A group of 20 radio stations in the Public Radio Program Directors Association voiced their concerns in January in a letter to the New York Times Audio Division

The review began after Chaudhry was arrested by Canadian authorities in September and charged with ‘a hoax regarding terrorist activity’ as his lies fell apart.

Chaudhry’s remarkable, yet untrue, story of being a fighter and executioner with the Islamic State in Syria had been the centerpiece of the award-winning ‘Caliphate’, for which reporter Callimachi was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and won a Peabody Award.

Yet, the Times found that the podcast, launched in 2018, dropped far short of the paper’s standards following widespread failings, right up to senior management.

They branded Chaudhry a ‘fabulist’ who concocted stories as an escape from his more mundane life in a Toronto suburb or living with grandparents in Pakistan.

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the paper, took personal responsibility for the errors in the editorial process, saying that the blame fell on him and other newsroom leaders.

During his interview with Barbaro, he said: ‘When the New York Times does deep, big, ambitious journalism in any format, we put it to a tremendous amount of scrutiny at the upper levels of the newsroom,’ he said in an interview with The Daily, another New York Times podcast.

‘We did not do that in this case,’ he continued.

‘And I think that I or somebody else should have provided that same kind of scrutiny … and I did not provide that kind of scrutiny, nor did my top deputies with deep experience in examining investigative reporting.

‘I think this guy, we now believe, was a con artist, who made up most if not all that he told us.’

Reporter Rukmini Callimachi, pictured above, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and won a Peabody Award for her work on the 'Caliphate' podcast. She has remained at the Times

Reporter Rukmini Callimachi, pictured above, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and won a Peabody Award for her work on the 'Caliphate' podcast. She has remained at the Times

Reporter Rukmini Callimachi, pictured above, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and won a Peabody Award for her work on the ‘Caliphate’ podcast. She has remained at the Times

Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, from Burlington, Ontario, has been charged with a terrorism hoax

Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, from Burlington, Ontario, has been charged with a terrorism hoax

Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, from Burlington, Ontario, has been charged with a terrorism hoax

The Times said the two-month review had concluded that the 12-part podcast featuring award-winning correspondent Callimachi, who has frequently reported on IS, ‘gave too much credence to the false or exaggerated accounts’ of Chaudhry.

The Times had ample reason to be suspicious of Chaudhry’s account, since an episode of ‘Caliphate’ was devoted to discrepancies in his story and its own fact-checking.

But the newspaper should it have worked harder to verify the claims before deciding to make Chaudhry a central character.

Chaudhry had claimed he traveled to Syria in 2016 to join the terrorist group ISIS and committed acts of terrorism, including two killings.

He went by the name Abu Huzayfah in the podcast and described in harrowing detail his role in executions.

His account, as told to Callimachi, was incredibly graphic, in particular as he describes killing a man in an ‘orange jumpsuit.’

The account caused an uproar in Canada’s parliament, with opposition Conservatives expressing outrage that Chaudhry was living freely in Ontario province after making the terror claims.

At the time, the Times claimed they had managed to secure a photo of Abu Huzayfah on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria, an indication that he had indeed made the trip.

Investigators have now found that Chaudhry had passed along photos taken by others in Syria as his own.

There is also still some dispute over whether he even traveled to Syria. Canadian officials say he never did, nor did he ever join the Islamic State, although American intelligence officials still have some doubt, the newspaper said.

‘Caliphate’ marked a foray into narrative audio reporting for the Times, which is increasingly seen as a major revenue stream for the paper.

The show became a major hit, rising to the top of the Apple podcast charts in 2018.

However, red flags surrounding the series’ veracity were never far away.

The scandal has led to intense backlash for the paper of record, especially from other news organizations, which have accused it of allowing for fearmongering regarding the radicalization of Muslims. 

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