by Joe Simonson
Kevin D. Williamson, the former National Review writer and editor who was recently fired from a new position at The Atlantic for controversial comments he made about abortion, wrote an op-ed Friday in The Wall Street Journal giving his perspective on the incident for the first time.
In his column, readers discover a variety of insights into the state of contemporary journalism, ranging from Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg’s admission that previous writers like Christopher Hitchens could get away from writing his unorthodox opinions because he was “in the family,” while Williamson is a foreigner to the liberal intelligentsia.
We also come to learn just how out-of-touch Goldberg appears to be from the state of the left. Soon after his hiring, Williamson warned his new boss that “the campaign to have me fired will begin 11 seconds after you announce that you’ve hired me.”
“It won’t be that bad,” Williams recounts Goldberg responding. “The Atlantic isn’t the New York Times. It isn’t high church for liberals.”
Perhaps The Atlantic isn’t, but as much as conservatives can make jokes about the direction of liberalism with the recent Starbucks controversy, it has become abundantly clear that nothing appears off limits to American’s current culture revolution.
While Goldberg might fancy his publication above these sort of incidents, it probably would have done him some good to pay attention to what the right has been screaming for some time now: “They’ll eventually come for you!”
Of course, enough has been written about Goldberg’s atrocious handling of this whole fiasco. The incompetence that comes with hiring someone without doing the apparent necessary background research on a writer’s beliefs in case they seem incompatible with the magazine’s editorial standards, or the spinelessness that came with Goldberg’s decision to cut Williamson loose after a chorus of outcries.
The most damning passage in William’s entire column is the following:
The remarkable fact about all this commentary on my supposedly horrifying views on abortion is that not a single writer from any of those famous publications took the time to ask me about the controversy. (The sole exception was a reporter from Vox.) Did I think I was being portrayed accurately? Why did I make that outrageous statement? Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment? Those are questions that might have occurred to people in the business of asking questions. (In preparing this account, I have confirmed my recollection of what Mr. Goldberg said with Mr. Goldberg himself.)
Aside from an ambitious journalist from Vox, not a single individual from the variety of publications cherishing Williamson’s misfortune wished to give him a chance to clarify his beliefs on abortion and capital punishment.
Let’s consider just how remarkable of a dereliction this is by these various reporters. Following every major firing or exit from President Donald Trump’s administration, TV cameras and journalists are lining up to hear their side of the story.
Admittedly, most Americans would put the status of a conservative writer and employee of the White House on two very different levels, journalists are far from average in this respect.
As any news addict knows, the media loves stories about themselves more than anything else. The fact that no one bothered even getting a comment from Williamson speaks volumes about how so many journalists implicitly agreed with Goldberg’s decision, as if Williamson had committed some sort of heinous, unforgivable crime in public where no doubt could be instilled about his guilt.
A better corollary can be seen with how Kathy Griffin was treated after the controversial video showing her holding up a severed head of the president.
CNN fired her as a host of the network’s New Year’s Eve coverage and various sponsors dropped her as a spokeswoman.
Almost immediately, outlets like New York Magazine gave her fawning coverage about how she “refuses to bend the knee.”
(For the record, The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Goldberg with questions after Williamson’s firing and never received a response).
Interestingly enough, NYMag was one of the very publications that chose to opine on Williamson without ever reaching out to him for comment.
As Williamson notes in his WSJ piece, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with advocacy journalism, “but let’s make sure about the journalism part of it.”
In the case of The Atlantic controversy, many journalists made clear: Only those deemed worthy will be able to give their side of the story.
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Joe Simonson is a reporter at The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Joe on Twitter.