The New York Times has come under fire for terminating editor Lauren Wolfe after she tweeted last Tuesday that she got “chills” over Joe Biden arriving in Washington, D.C., ahead of his inauguration as president.
Wolfe, an award-winning journalist who has reported from war zones in Syria and Congo, became a trending topic on Twitter over the weekend as people expressed outrage over her ouster, called for her reinstatement and set up a Venmo account to provide financial aid.
In a statement on Sunday, a Times spokesperson disputed online accounts about Wolfe, who the paper said was neither a full-time employee nor under contract. “For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet,” the rep said, declining to comment further.
But online condemnation of the Times over Wolfe’s ouster and its timing was fierce. The veteran journalist had been responsible for editing online stories for the Times related to the pandemic and breaking news events, according to HuffPost and New York magazine journalist Yashar Ali, who said that right-wing critics had called attention to her tweets.
“I honestly think if Lauren Wolfe had written, ‘I love Joe Biden, he’s the bestest president ever!’ it STILL wouldn’t have been a fireable offense,” Baltimore magazine editor Max Weiss wrote. “But ‘I have chills’? That could be construed as being awestruck by the sight of Democracy in action.”
“The fact that Tom Friedman can spout absolute warmongering nonsense about the Middle East for decades but NYT fires Lauren Wolfe over a single tweet tells you everything you need to know,” author Jillian York tweeted.
Others called on the Times to rehire Wolfe. “You are punishing someone who should be idealized because she said something that pissed off fascists? Please. Please. PLEASE. Hire Lauren Wolfe back,” Josh Shahryar tweeted.
According to Ali, Wolfe had been ousted from the Times after two since-deleted tweets about Biden, one expressing “chills” about his arrival in Washington and another that incorrectly faulted the “pettiness” of the Trump administration for not sending a military plane to fly Biden to the capital. (Wolfe herself deleted that tweet on learning that Biden had chosen to take his own plane.)
See more reactions below.
The firing of Lauren Wolfe raises an important issue. If working as a journalist, is it better to: a) have no opinions; b) pretend you have none; or c) own them honestly and still work to be fair? I would choose c. I think it's phony to pretend to be objective. https://t.co/rRYIn9M04a
— Alex Gibney (@alexgibneyfilm) January 24, 2021
Lauren Wolfe fires off a dumb tweet, fired.
Michael Barbaro violates countless ethical considerations and keeps his job.
— ℮oin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) January 24, 2021
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) January 24, 2021
@nytimes didn't fire Maggie after this even though Caputo lied under oath to Congress and had sent about a hundred tweets like these to me. He then went to HHS and his actions resulted in untold COVID deaths. But Lauren Wolfe gets fired? https://t.co/uvLFN3kIcG pic.twitter.com/w5jhtoir2L
— Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) January 24, 2021
I honestly think if Lauren Wolfe had written, "I love Joe Biden, he's the bestest president ever!" it STILL wouldn't have been a fireable offense. But "I have chills"? That could be construed as being awestruck by the sight of Democracy in action.
— Max Weiss (@maxthegirl) January 24, 2021
— Gisele Barreto Fetterman (@giselefetterman) January 24, 2021