Part of the role of the media is to present diverse viewpoints. But recently, news outlets have been criticized for normalizing extremist views. In November, for instance, a misguided profile of a Nazi sympathizer in the New York Times drew the ire of Twitter. And in March, The Atlantic came under fire for hiring a columnist who once said abortion should be punishable by death. But now, the magazine has withdrawn its support of this same columnist, Kevin Williamson, announcing that he will be fired.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, hired Williamson as an attempt to diversify the perspectives represented on the publication’s editorial staff. But Williamson’s hiring immediately drew criticism from the left because of the writer’s extreme views and past offensive writing. Williamson, who formerly worked for the right-wing publication The National Review, once described a black child as a “primate,” and had also expressed transphobic views. And in one of his most notorious tweets, the writer even said that women who have abortions should be punished by hanging.
Goldberg initially defended hiring Williamson by saying that he believed the tweet was not indicative of Williamson’s beliefs. But yesterday, April 4th, the website Media Matters found a 2014 podcast in which Williamson expressed the same views.
In a memo sent to staff, Goldberg wrote that he had reconsidered Williamson’s position after a podcast recorded by the writer “made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, present his carefully considered views.”
Twitter users had mixed emotions over Williamson’s hiring and firing.
Presenting a variety of viewpoints is important for any publication. But Williamson’s comments about women represent a hateful ideology — one which The Atlantic should not support. We’re relieved to see Goldberg finally acknowledging the danger posed by giving these opinions a platform, and we hope that next time, the magazine will think more carefully about the writers it hires.