New York Times columnist and frequent recipient of Twitter ire Bret Stephens emailed a professor and his boss after the professor called him a “bedbug” in a tweet.
“I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face,” Stephens wrote in the email, which was shared by George Washington University associate professor Dave Karpf.
Provost Forrest Maltzman, who was the second recipient of the email, responded on Twitter: “Thanks for getting in touch. As you know, as an academic, Professor Karpf speaks for himself and does not take direction from me. His opinions are his own. Our committent to academic freedom and free speech are integral to GW’s mission. I see on Twitter that you invited him to your home. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to come to our campus to speak about civil discourse in the digital age.”
Karpf told TheWrap on Tuesday that “it’s been a weird 12 hours.”
On Monday, there were reports of bedbugs in the New York Times offices. As Twitter lit up with a few good bedbug jokes, Karpf got one in at Stephens’ expense: “The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
From there, Karpf posted a screenshot of the email he says he received from Stephens, in which it’s clear the message went not only to his inbox, but to the university’s provost, too.
Since Monday night, Stephens has been trending on Twitter as people react to Karpf’s post.
“It’s so good that Bret Stephens thought that would lead to fewer people calling him a bedbug,” wrote Ken Klippenstein of The Young Turks.
Stephens’ account is no longer active and according to a screenshot posted by journalist Yashar Ali, it was deleted.
“Time to do what I long ago promised to do,” said a tweet from the deleted Stephens account. “Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity. I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt. Thanks to all of my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”
“I’m curious if Bret Stephens realizes that he is entirely responsible for this. He decided to search for random tweets about himself. He decided to track down the author. He decided to write a faux call for civility. He decided to cc the author’s boss, which reveals this was about power, not civility,” Karpf told TheWrap.
Stephens did not respond to request for comment on the email to Karpf and his boss or the deletion of the Twitter account.
In 2017, multiple scientists and climate change advocates called for a boycott of the Times after it published a Stephens op-ed that they felt pushed anti-climate change agendas. Also in 2017, Stephens wrote a “defense of sorts” of Harvey Weinstein.