Slate podcast host Mike Pesca has been handed an "indefinite suspension" after sharing his opinion about the controversy that led to the ouster of veteran New York Times reporter Donald McNeil Jr.
Defector reported on Monday that Pesca, who hosted Slate's daily podcast "The Gist," was suspended. The report cited an internal memo from Slate CEO Dan Check, which referred in turn to a conversation that took place last week on the common workplace chatroom app Slack.
In that forum, Pesca and his colleagues discussed McNeil's exit from the Times after it was revealed that he had used the n-word while leading an educational trip in 2019. McNeil, while offering an apology, explained that his use of the word came during a discussion about the word itself and was not meant as a pejorative.
According to Defector, the conversation explored whether McNeil's use of the n-word was justified, as well as whether White people are allowed to say the word in certain contexts.
Pesca suggested that McNeil, the star Times science reporter covering the coronavirus outbreak, should not have been fired, writing: "McNeil’s journalism made the Times more valuable to more Americans than having ousted him in 2019 would have."
"My points are his internal conduct was in a grey area, you guys don’t think it was," Pesca told colleagues who pushed back at his defense of McNeil. "Here’s my position. Expressing the views, not the word, the views he did on that trip are not fire-able. Worthy of a talking to or a ‘What are you doing as a representative of the Times, Don?’ But nothing requirement [sic] much angst among management or staff? Or no? – should the Times discipline staffers who question the idea of White Supremacy or who express retrograde ideas on mass incarceration?"
He continued, "The question is: Is an out loud utterance of that word, in a work environment, fire-able, censurable, etc ... Even as a point of clarification to a question exactly about the use of that word. I thought not necessarily ... McNeil was originally disciplined in 2019. Just a little while later society seems to have rendered a different verdict."
Slate staff writer, Rachelle Hampton, who is Black, slammed Pesca's comments, writing, "Feel like it’s weird that everyone’s dancing around the point that working in an environment where [W]hite people feel empowered to say the n-word in service of whatever argument they want to make is incredibly hostile for [B]lack people."
Pesca later clarified, "I don’t think it’s proper to use it in casual conversation and I’m in no position to tell Black NY Times workers that they shouldn’t be worried it’s going to pop out of a colleague’s mouth at some point. If you want my opinion it’s that there are some limited reasons why a non African American journalist or professor to use the word when conveying a quote in the name of clarity or factualness […] But it’s not a comfortable point to even pursue right now. If I had the opposite opinion I know a hundred ways I could make the opinion I actually have seem horrible and racist, and you know what, maybe it is."
Slate employees told Defector they felt "outraged" toward Pesca's comments, with one... (Read more)
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