Dean Baquet, the new executive editor for The New York Times, chimed in on Thursday night about the controversy that has erupted in the wake of his predecessor, Jill Abramson’s firing.
He was very direct in saying, “I do not believe … that Jill was fired because of gender,” during an interview with NPR. Instead, he said it hinged on failed relationships with her boss and deputies, including him.
However, Baquet wouldn’t speak more specifically about those failings. “I’m not commenting on Jill’s relationship with the newsroom or management style,” he said. “I’ll let others do that. “But one thing that people say is newspapers always have tough [leaders]. I mean I’ve seen many elegies to ‘the city editor who changed my life because he was really nasty to me for six months and it made me a better person.’ I think that’s nuts.”
He added, “I don’t think that leaders have to be or should be rough on their people,” he said. “Leaders have to make tough decisions.”
When asked pointedly, Baquet did admit to his own temper, which had resulted in several holes in the walls of the Washington office of the Times. He specified, though, that he was only ever angry at somebody above him. At that time in his career, Abramson would have been one of the people above him.
Baquet also admitted that he had told publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that he was concerned that a new hire Abramson was planning would marginalize his role in the company, but insists he gave no ultimatum, as Sulzberger indicated in his own response to the Abramson firing.
Baquet’s frustration, however, was a factor in the decision to remove Abramson and promote Baquet to her position.
In the end, though, Baquet tried to emphasize Abramson’s value as a leader, even when they were on opposing sides.
“The arguments we had were the debates that two very strong-willed people have when they’re running a big news organization,” he said. “They weren’t nasty and I have tremendous respect for her.”