The Atlantic Finally Fires Kevin Williamson, Who Said Women Who Have Abortions Should Be Hanged

The mag’s editor initially defended the controversial view as simply a bad tweet. But then it was revealed that he’s long held the opinion that abortion patients should be hanged.

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

The Atlantic on Thursday fired conservative columnist Kevin Williamson after it became apparent that his belief that women who get an abortion should be hanged was more than just a single tweet.

“I have come to the conclusion that The Atlantic is not the best fit for his talents, and so we are parting ways,” editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in an email to staff, obtained by The Daily Beast.

Upon first announcing Williamson’s hiring last month, The Atlantic faced enormous uproar over some of his more controversial bits of commentary. Critics pointed to one 2014 National Review column in which Williamson described an encounter with a young black boy using racially loaded terms like “three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg” and describing the boy as a “primate.”

And, perhaps more notoriously, Williamson suggested on his now-deleted Twitter account that “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide. When asked for a specific punishment, he offered hanging.

Goldberg initially defended Williamson’s hiring, dismissing the fringe view as simply “extreme tweeting” for which he deserved a “second chance.” New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens echoed that defense, writing, “[F]or heaven’s sake, it was a tweet.”

However, on Wednesday, Media Matters for America revealed that Williamson’s deadly solution for women who’ve had abortions wasn’t just an aberrant tweet. In a 2014 podcast, the liberal watchdog found, Williamson repeatedly and forcefully defended his view that those women should be executed.

He described current methods of execution—like lethal injection—to be “too antiseptic” and suggested that the state administer more “violent” forms of capital punishment befitting the “violence” of an abortion.

And so Goldberg on Thursday reversed course, telling Atlantic staffers that the podcast demonstrated how Williamson did, in fact, believe that women should be hanged for having abortions—language which Goldberg denounced as “callous and violent.”

“The language he used in this podcast—and in my conversations with him in recent days—made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views. The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it.”

The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of how his especially violent belief conflicts with the “values of our workplace.”

During his brief tenure with The Atlantic, Williamson only authored one column, declaring Monday that the “libertarian moment” in politics is definitively over thanks to the rise of President Trump’s right-populist politics.