The New York Times outraged many readers and was accused of “normalizing neo-Nazi views and behavior.”
How? The Times published a profile of an Ohio man, Tony Hovater, who is “an avowed white nationalist,” noting “He is the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key at a time the old boundaries of accepted political activity can seem alarmingly in flux.” The Times added, “Most Americans would be disgusted and baffled by his casually approving remarks about Hitler, disdain for democracy and belief that the races are better off separate.”
The Nov. 25 article by Richard Fausset was headlined “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland.” It now carries a note at the top reading, “This article has drawn significant feedback, most of it sharply critical. Read a response from The Times‘s national editor here. And the reporter offers his thoughts on covering white nationalists here.”
Times national editor Marc Lacey responded to criticism of the article in a post on the newspaper’s website, denying the story was an attempt to normalize. “We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,” Lacey wrote. “We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. 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.” A Times spokesperson pointed iMediaEthics to Lacey’s response on behalf of the paper.
Lacey said that the Times reporter and editors “agonized over the tone and content of the article.” He went on,
“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. We described Mr. Hovater as a bigot, a Nazi sympathizer who posted images on Facebook of a Nazi-like America full of happy white people and swastikas everywhere.”
The Times article also linked to a website selling swastika armbands, but after readers complained, the Times “agreed and removed the link.”
Below, see tweets about the article.
The problem with this article isn't that it's about a Nazi but that it doesn't add anything to our understanding of modern Nazis. Of course racists shop at supermarkets and play in bands and enjoy Seinfeld and own cats. That evil is also banal is not new. https://t.co/bOIQU4pOzu
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 25, 2017
It remains crazy to me that so many national outlets hand off coverage of white extremists to random reporters, rather than making it a dedicated beat. Latest example: https://t.co/bzbhOoUOWo
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) November 25, 2017
All 4 of my grandparents were concentration camp survivors. Most of their families–parents, siblings, children–perished.
— Andrei Cherny (@AndreiCherny) November 26, 2017
— Rani Molla (@ranimolla) November 25, 2017
This dreck and the “dapper Nazi” dreck is what led us here.
Newspapers, you have a responsibility. I mean, I wouldn’t think this would need to be spelled out but…
DO 👏🏾NOT👏🏾NORMALIZE👏🏾NAZISM👏🏾 https://t.co/jMPdkyv8P2
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) November 25, 2017
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) November 25, 2017