‘Bari Weiss’s letter was tame,’ a New York Times insider tells me. ‘She could have named names. She could have said, “There are dozens of other instances of bullying and harassment.” Because there are.’
What took Weiss so long? Prominent writers at the Times never accepted her as a colleague. Instead, her colleagues on the opinion page sniped and leaked against her on Twitter from the first. Was it ‘tall poppy syndrome’ — resentment of a young writer who, in an era when legacy media seem to be in perpetual crisis, landed a plum job at the Times? Or, as Weiss implies in her resignation letter, was it something nastier than mere jealousy — an ethical and legal failure that my source calls a ‘hostile workplace culture’?
The resignation letter she released on Tuesday alleges that Weiss, a liberal centrist who happens also to be a prominent Jewish supporter of Israel, has been called a ‘racist and Nazi’ in her place of work and on Slack social media channels on which senior Times management are regular presences. She also says that the Times’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and ‘other Times leaders’ have ‘stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage’. Her letter is restrained, but still, what my source calls ‘the actual horror of her daily life at her job’ still comes across.
‘It’s astounding but it’s also instructive,’ my source says. ‘This is what happens when management really doesn’t lift a finger to defend you.’
As Weiss herself says, her verifiable claims could amount to a costly compensation case for the Times: ‘unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge’. The Times’s management may also have breached Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964), by failing to protect Weiss from ‘discrimination based on certain specified characteristics’ including ‘race, color, national origin, sex, and religion’.
Weiss’s online enemies are already assuming that she jumped before she was pushed. That alone would confirm the impression of ethical collapse at the Times. The radical left are running the paper, and no dissent is tolerated — not even from a US senator. But the truth, I hear, is that she left in disgust.
‘This was obviously her decision. It was just, “What am I doing here anymore? The place has gone mad.”’
It won’t stop with Weiss. Colleagues on the opinion pages and in the newsroom have, I’m told, ‘ratcheted up their disdain for moderates and conservatives’. Who’s next?
It’s harder to get rid of a weekly columnist than an editor like Weiss. It’s a much bigger stink if a columnist leaves. But the fish stinks from the head, and the owners have no guts.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of The Spectator (US).