New York Times receives criticism for profile of Nazi supporter
The New York Times on Sunday offered an explanation of its profile of a white nationalist published a day earlier, a response to blowback from readers who complained that the story was too kind to its Nazi-sympathizing subject.
“We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers. We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story,” the Times’ national editor, Marc Lacey, wrote. “What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.”
Readers accused the Times profile of normalizing a white nationalist by highlighting mundane details from his life, including his recent wedding, his fandom of the TV shows “Seinfeld” and “Twin Peaks” and his “Midwestern manners” that “would please anyone’s mother.” Some objected to links included in the online story that connected to a white nationalist website selling swastika armbands, while others suggested that a Nazi sympathizer was undeserving of attention from one of the nation’s leading newspapers.
The article did not treat its subject with unflinching positivity. It labeled him a bigot who defended Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, suggested that races be separated and spouted racist conspiracy theories that Jews control the worlds of media and finance. He is quoted asking “what part is supposed to look unappealing?” in relation to a photo he posted on Facebook of what the world might have looked like if Germany had won World War II: an American-looking street, with just white people, adorned with swastikas.
“Our reporter and his editors agonized over the tone and content of the article. The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think,” Lacey wrote. “We understand that some readers wanted more pushback, and we hear that loud and clear.”