New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, an outspoken NeverTrump activist, effusively praised ABC when it fired Roseanne Barr for a single tweet, but when it comes to a mountain of racist tweets over nine years, he says his new colleague Sarah Jeong deserves a whole lot of grace and a second chance. What could possibly explain this blatant double standard?
To recap: Roseanne Barr, creator and star of the hit sitcom bearing her name, was swiftly fired by ABC in May after she posted a tweet comparing former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who is black, to a terrorist ape. Shortly after her firing created a social media firestorm, Stephens used his column at the New York Times to praise ABC and its executives who fired Barr, while declaring that she deserved to be fired not because of a single tweet, but because she is simply a bad person unworthy of having any public platform.
“Barr’s tweet about Jarrett, in other words, wasn’t the odd needle in the haystack,” Stephens wrote. “It was the last straw.”
“This is not a ‘one bad tweet’ issue,” Stephens claimed, before endorsing the characterization of Barr as a “boor,” a “notorious believer and propagator of conspiracy theories related to 9/11,” and “a MIRVed ICBM ready to go off in all directions at any time.”
Stephens then declared that the Barr brouhaha was neither a “free speech” issue nor a “double standards” issue.
“[W]hat Barr tweeted wasn’t an idea,” Stephens wrote. “It was a slur.” And so she had to be fired.
With that background in mind, let’s compare Barr’s single tweet to years’ worth of undoubtedly racist tweets from Stephens’ new colleague Sarah Jeong.
Jeong wrote that white people are “only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.”
“Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants,” she wrote in another.
Jeong approvingly posted a chart which indicated one’s value as a human being was based entirely on the color of one’s skin.
“#CancelWhitePeople” she demanded in one tweet.
“White men are fucking bullshit,” she wrote.
It goes on and on and on like that, for years. Whereas Barr was shown to the unemployment line due to a single tweet, Jeong was hired after several years’ worth of blatant racism and misandry. Given that Stephens declared that the totality of one’s work over years, rather than a solitary tweet, should be the determining factor in whether one deserves a prominent public platform, surely he denounced Jeong and demanded her immediate firing with the same fervor he brought to the fight against Barr, right? Right??
Wrong. Oh, so very wrong. Rather than applying the exact same standard to Jeong that he applied to the Trump-supporting star and creator of a show praised for sympathetically depicting a fictional Trump-supporting family, Stephens created a brand new standard for his new co-worker.
“Let he who is without a bad tweet cast the first stone,” reads the subhed in Stephens’ column on the matter.
“Is it ultimately [Jeong’s] fault for writing those ugly tweets?” Stephens asks. “Yes. Does it represent the core truth of who she is? I doubt it.”
Whereas Stephens gleefully joined the social media mob as it targeted Barr with pitchforks and torches, he now counsels caution and circumspection towards those who have spent years hurling slurs and epithets and racial invective at those who dared to be born with the wrong skin pigmentation.
“Anyone who has been the victim of the social-media furies knows just how distorting and dishonest those furies can be,” Stephens wrote. “God save us all when those pillars crumble in the face of our new culture of denunciation.”
How convenient for both Stephens and The New York Times, and the host of venomous left-wing cultural warriors constantly on the hunt for new apostates to set ablaze.
Naturally, Stephens praised himself in his Jeong column for his consistency and principled take on the matter. He patted himself on the back for applying “precisely the same logic” to the Jeong contretemps as he did to the controversy over the hirings of writers Kevin Williamson and Bari Weiss.
Curiously, Stephens failed to reference his full-throated endorsement of Barr’s firing even a single time. Much time was spent defending the honor of his friends and colleagues at The New York Times and praising his own unwavering principles and grace, but he offered nary a word about the embarrassing double standard evident in his treatment of Barr.
It’s difficult to come away with any explanation for Stephens’ hypocrisy on the matter that doesn’t include parochialism or politics. Barr, a comedian and sitcom writer, was fired for a single tweet. Jeong, whom we are told by Stephens to take seriously as a thinker due to her years-long body of literary work on serious matters, does not deserve to be fired over years’ worth of consistently hateful and unprovoked racist posts. Barr, who supported Trump, is not worthy of a public platform. Jeong, a rabidly left-wing ideologue, not only deserves an esteemed position at The New York Times, but also our utmost respect. The work of Barr, a Hollywood provacateur, does not belong in polite society. Yet the work of Jeong, a personal colleague of Stephens, is “consistently smart and interesting.”
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about Bret Stephens’ rhetorical acrobatics.