I’ve been an amateur Times-ologist for nearly 30 years and I can’t remember the Paper of Record ever putting out a formal press release simply because one of its reporters suffered a little ribbing. But that’s what just happened today:
Dramatic! All of this comes in response to a one-minute segment in which Tucker Carlson ribbed middle-aged Times TikTok reporter Taylor Lorenz for a hyperbolic tweet. I don’t know in what legal, moral or journalistic universe what Carlson did can be described as “harassment” rather than “criticism” (or “mockery”). Carlson sarcastically mocked a tweet Lorenz wrote in which she said “a harassment and smear campaign has destroyed my life.” Even before the Times issued the above statement, Glenn Greenwald noted that Lorenz typifies “a toxic tactic now frequently used by wealthy and influential public figures (like her) to delegitimize criticisms and even render off-limits any attempt to hold them accountable. Specifically, she and her media allies constantly conflate criticisms of people like them with ‘harassment,’ ‘abuse’ and even ‘violence.’”
What I don’t understand is what governing principle is at work in the Times‘ decision to issue this statement. I know Times reporter Maggie Haberman, for instance, and I know that truckloads of vitriol get dumped on her every day. If it were Times policy to issue a statement defending Haberman every time someone says something rude about her, they’d have to hire 45 communications professionals just to do that. Maureen Dowd, over the years, has taken as much abuse as 20 Taylor Lorenzes.
All Times reporters and columnists get criticized, very often by prominent people, very often by prominent people on television. (Maybe the women writers get harassed more, but I have no data to support that.) What is the policy at work in the Times communications shop? Now that they’ve publicly rushed to the defense of Lorenz, are they going to defend every reporter who gets criticized or mocked? Is it Times policy to defend only reporters who get mocked on Fox News Channel? Or only reporters who get mocked by Tucker Carlson? How about only reporters who get mocked by Tucker Carlson for more than 30 seconds? What prompted this extremely unusual action by the Times?