Media Matters Hires Ex-New Yorker Fact Checker Who Falsely Said ICE Agent Had Nazi Tattoo

Talia Lavin caused a stir last month with an accusatory tweet

Media Matters for America has hired Talia Lavin, a former fact checker for The New Yorker, less than a month after she left the magazine over a tweet falsely accusing a disabled ICE employee of having a Nazi tattoo.

The liberal media watchdog group will employ Lavin as a researcher on far-right extremism, she said Friday in a tweet.

“Some personal news: I’m delighted to be joining Media Matters (@mmfa) next week as a researcher on far-right extremism and the alt-right, part of a brand-new team,” she wrote. “I’ll be working full-time with some of the smartest, most passionate people in media right now and I’m psyched.”

Media Matters chief Angelo Carusone did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

After three years at The New Yorker as fact checker, Lavin tendered her resignation days after an creating an online firestorm when she falsely accused Justin Gaertner, a wheelchair-bound ICE agent, of having a Nazi Iron Cross tattoo over his left elbow.

She deleted the tweet a short time later after several people pointed out that the tattoo looked more like a Maltese Cross, a symboy used by members of the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Some vets said this ICE agent’s tattoo looked more like a Maltese cross than an Iron Cross (common among white supremacists), so i deleted my tweet so as not to spread misinformation,” she said in an early attempt to diffuse the matter.

The clarification, however, did not prevent the story from exploding, with Lavin herself earning a personal rebuke from ICE, which also demanded an apology from her and the New Yorker.

“Over the weekend, social media perpetuated by a tweet by New Yorker reporter Talia Levin [sic] erroneously implied that a tattoo on one of this arms was an Iron Cross and essentially labeled him a Nazi,” the agency said. “Anyone attempting to advance their personal political opinions by baselessly slandering an American hero should be issuing public apologies to Mr. Gaertner and retractions. This includes Levin [sic] and the New Yorker.”

The agency also corrected the record on the tattoo itself saying it was “the symbol for his platoon while he fought in Afghanistan. The writing on his right arm is the Spartan Creed which is about protecting family and children.”

Lavin herself did issue an apology to Gaertner in a lengthy Twitter thread that also chided ICE for attacking her personally and announced her resignation from The New Yorker.

“This has been a wild and difficult week. I owe ICE agent Justin Gaertner a sincere apology for spreading an rumor about his tattoo,” she said. “However, I do not think it is acceptable for a federal agency to target a private citizen for a good faith, hastily rectified error.”

The furor also prompted the New Yorker to distance itself from Lavin. “The personal social-media accounts of staff members do not represent the magazine, and we in no way share the viewpoint expressed in this tweet,” a spokesperson told National Review. “The tweet has been deleted, and we deeply regret any harm that this may have caused Mr. Gaertner.”

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