New York Times Under Fire For “Racially Targeted Witch Hunt” Into Leaks Over Israel Coverage

New York Times Under Fire For “Racially Targeted Witch Hunt” Into Leaks Over Israel Coverage

The president of the union representing New York Times employees sent a scathing letter on Friday to the paper’s publisher and chairperson, A.G. Sulzberger, accusing the Times of conducting a “destructive and racially targeted witch hunt” as it investigates internal leaks related to its reporting on Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.

The investigation, Newsguild President Susan DeCarava said, was generating an “ominous chilling effect across the newsroom and effectively silencing necessary and critical internal discussion.”

The leak investigation, first reported by Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein, came in response to an article in The Intercept in late January, which cited internal Times sources who claimed that the paper’s popular podcast, “The Daily,” had pulled an episode about Hamas’ perpetration of sexual violence during the attacks amid “a furious internal debate about the strength of the paper’s original reporting on the subject.”

Klein reported that this sort of internal investigation at the Times was “highly unusual,” with multiple staffers saying this is the first of its kind they can recall.

In her Friday letter, DeCarava wrote that the leak investigation had targeted members of the paper’s Middle Eastern and North African Times Employee Resource Group (known as the MENA Collective), subjecting them to “particularly hostile” questioning about their involvement in the internal employee organization.

DeCarava added that some of the employees brought into these meetings had no connection to the planned podcast episode, except for the fact that they’d gone to the paper’s standards editor to raise issues with the bombshell December story that would have been the basis for the episode.

In a separate letter to guild members, DeCarava said that members of the MENA Collective had been ordered to hand over the names of all members of the internal group and were “demanded copies of personal communications with colleagues about shared workplace concerns.” Times management, she added, has “the right to conduct fair investigatory meetings. But they do not have the right to intimidate or target their members because of their race, ethnicity, or views.”

A Times spokesperson vehemently denied DeCarava’s allegations. “The NewsGuild’s claim that we targeted people based on their associations or ethnicity is preposterous,” Danielle Rhoades Ha said in a statement to The Washington Post.

So far, the Times has defended the credibility of the December 28 story, in which a Pulitzer Prize-winning international correspondent, Jeffrey Gettleman, and two freelancers, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella, reported “a pattern of rape, mutilation and extreme brutality against women” by Hamas on October 7. The paper also commissioned a follow-up story, published in late January.

Since The Intercept’s January scoop, however, the Times has faced increased scrutiny for the December article, which Executive Editor Joe Kahn heralded internally as a “signature” piece of enterprise reporting and which was included in the coverage that won the paper a George Polk award in February for “unsurpassed coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas.”

After revelations that Schwartz, who had not previously written for the Times before October 7, had “liked” offensive posts on X, formerly Twitter, including one that advocated for turning Gaza into a “slaughterhouse” and referred to Palestinians as “human animals,” the paper announced that it was investigating the matter. It said her likes were “unacceptable violations of our company policy,” The Daily Beast reported last weekend.

The Intercept published a follow-up story on Wednesday primarily focused on Schwartz that further questioned the quality of the Times’s reporting. The piece reported on comments Schwartz made in an interview in Hebrew that Intercept reporters Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Grim, and Daniel Boguslaw argued “suggests that The New York Times’s mission” with its reporting on sexual violence on October 7 “was to bolster a predetermined narrative.” A Times spokesperson said the article had taken quotes from Schwartz “out of context.”

In further comments to The Intercept, Times international editor Phil Pan said he stood by the paper’s reporting and “saw no evidence of bias” in Schwartz’s work. “But as we have said,” he added, “her ‘likes’ of offensive and opinionated social media posts, predating her work with us, are unacceptable.”

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