The New York Times on Tuesday confirmed that it has demoted a top Washington editor after publicly chastising his “poor judgment on social media.”
“Jonathan Weisman met with [executive editor] Dean [Baquet] today and apologize for his recent serious lapses in judgment,” the paper said in a statement. “As a consequence of his actions, he has been demoted and will no longer be overseeing the team that covers Congress or be active on social media. We don’t typically discuss personnel matters but we’re doing so in this instance with Jonathan’s knowledge.”
In a comment to Times media reporter Marc Tracy, Weisman said: “I accept Dean’s judgment. I think he’s right to do what he’s doing. I embarrassed the newspaper, and he had to act.”
Over the past few weeks, Weisman has generated multiple controversies over his Twitter behavior. In one instance, he publicly dismissed the idea that Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Detroit, and Ilhan Omar, of Minneapolis, accurately represent the Midwest, and that civil-rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who represents Atlanta, understands the Deep South.
Just days later, Weisman faced more backlash after he aggressively emailed occasional Times contributor Roxane Gay, her assistant, and her publisher demanding an “enormous apology” for her criticism of his tweets about a congressional candidate of color.
That incident led to the paper issuing a rare public rebuke of Weisman’s conduct. “Jonathan has repeatedly displayed poor judgment on social media and in responding to criticism. We’re closely examining what to do about it,” the Times said in a statement last week.
The Times in recent months has faced backlash—both internally and externally—over everything from its headline verbiage to Weisman’s social-media behavior to its coverage of Trump, racism, and the 2020 Democratic primary.
In a town-hall meeting on Monday, Baquet acknowledged that the paper has work to do, conceding that the Times had “a couple of significant missteps.” He openly conceded that the paper’s most recent headline-related embarrassment—a top line reading “Trump Urges Unity Against Racism,” which critics said generously glossed over the president’s own racism—was “a fucking mess.”
While Baquet did not explicitly mention Weisman, he and other Times brass urged staff to be cautious with their social-media feeds. The executive editor said it pained him to see his journalists conducting themselves inappropriately on Twitter, arguing that bad tweets “destabilizes the newsroom,” according to a Times source who was in the meeting.