How BuzzFeed Botched A Story About An Indiana Mechanic Fired After Posting Porn From Work

How BuzzFeed Botched A Story About An Indiana Mechanic Fired After Posting Porn From Work

Buzzfeed buries the major detail that Vaughn posted photos on OnlyFans in her Don Ayers uniform and in the company's restroom a remarkable 27 paragraphs into the story.
Emily Jashinsky
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Don Ayres Honda in Fort Wayne, Ind. fired mechanic Kirsten Vaughn in mid-February after she started posting sexually explicit content in her uniform and at the dealership on OnlyFans, a website the New York Times describes as the “paywall of porn” that “put[s] X-rated entertainment in the hands of its entertainers.” That’s hardly worthy of national news, let alone coverage that casts blame on her former employers. Yet here we are.

Vaughn tweeted about her story last week, and now the family-owned-and-operated dealership is unfairly under the harsh national media spotlight, slotted into an absurd narrative that it’s even newsworthy for a company to fire an employee who makes pornography in the workplace.

“Really a shame they had to fire me for having my only fans page, cuz I got down at my dealership,” Vaughn tweeted April 20, alongside video of herself working on a car. The tweet had around 6,500 likes on Monday afternoon, two days after BuzzFeed published a sympathetic investigation into Vaughn’s firing from Don Ayers. Several viral outlets subsequently picked the story up.

Critically, however, BuzzFeed buries a remarkable 27 paragraphs into the story the major detail that Vaughn posted photos on OnlyFans in her Don Ayers uniform and in the company’s restroom, spinning its investigation into a narrative that Don Ayers did something noteworthy or wrong. The story begins by reporting that Vaughn was “making amateur porn outside of work using the platform OnlyFans,” before later contradicting itself and reporting, “Vaughn acknowledged to her managers that she shared some photos in her uniform and from the dealership’s bathroom on her OnlyFans account.” That’s not “outside of work” at all. It’s literally “inside” of work.

https://twitter.com/vermilionvixxxn/status/1252315442682757122?s=20

Human Resources manager Jason Johnston, according to the article, “denied that Vaughn had been fired over her OnlyFans account, and said instead that she had violated company policy. He declined to specify which policy Vaughn had violated.” It seems obvious, of course, that the relevant policy might be a perfectly reasonable one about appropriate conduct in the workplace.

BuzzFeed’s article also insinuates the dealership mismanaged Vaughn’s case, depicting Don Ayers as a den of sexual harassment and sexist double standards. Take this section of the article, which reports on audio Vaughn recorded of conversation with Johnston and general manager John Watkins.

In the recordings, Johnston and Watkins also seem to blame Vaughn for the reaction of her coworkers. ‘If I walked out into the shop and spread a rumor, how other people react to it, that’s their responsibility, but I’m still the one who yelled ‘fire,” Watkins can be heard saying in one recording.

The pair also questioned Vaughn about how she felt about the fact that her coworkers were likely seeing her naked. Johnston also seemed to blame Vaughn for creating a situation where her coworkers might be tempted to sexually harass her.

‘If there were coworkers over there who had access to your page, that might encourage them to approach you with unwanted sexual conduct or comments,’ Johnston said on the recording.

Note how BuzzFeed reports that Watkins “seems to blame” Vaughn for harassment on the recording, when he’s doing nothing of the sort. The quote from Watkins clearly emphasizes that any harassment is the responsibility of the harassers (and it is!), but their reactions don’t make Vaughn’s behavior right.

Johnston telling Vaughn, “If there were coworkers over there who had access to your page, that might encourage them to approach you with unwanted sexual conduct or comments,” is not blaming her for the alleged harassment, it’s correctly explaining the consequences, fair or unfair, of posting pornography your colleagues can access.

Johnston was actually very clear about Don Ayers not tolerating sexual harassment, which Vaughn absolutely, unfairly seems to have experienced. From BuzzFeed’s report:

In one of the audio recordings made by Vaughn, when Johnston talked about how her OnlyFans might encourage coworkers to make sexual remarks to her, Vaughn then asked if Johnston was concerned about a repeat of Looper’s experience with the male colleague.

‘Absolutely!’ Johnston can be heard responding. ‘Sexual harassment that you would find personally unwelcome, and that’s something I would be concerned about for you.’

If you glance at Vaughn’s Instagram page, on which she was posting stories about her OnlyFans page, she was also posting pictures of herself ostensibly at work and in uniform during the same time period. BuzzFeed does not mention that. BuzzFeed also does not mention that Don Ayers is run by a woman.

Vaughn’s tweet wasn’t exactly megaviral. It didn’t demand coverage. Either way, I can understand BuzzFeed pursuing the story up as a human interest piece, although upon learning she was posting pictures to a porn account in her uniform and at work, you’d think they would spike it. Or at least put that information in the headline or the lede.

To her credit, the reporter dug into Vaughn’s story, and even included details inconvenient to the article’s narrative. But it was still completely unfair to Don Ayers.

Here’s what happened: A car dealership fired a mechanic who posted pornographic pictures of herself in her uniform and on company property. She made porn at work. It’s not news. It’s not interesting. It’s perfectly reasonable. Because of Twitter, however, this story from Indiana caught the attention of a reporter for a liberal publication in New York City, who published an investigation framed in a narrative favorable to Vaughn that could hurt the company’s business locally.

What’s most distasteful about the ordeal is that culturally progressive coastal media institutions like BuzzFeed have played a huge role in normalizing liberal sexual values between the coasts, encouraging behavior most of their staffs wouldn’t even personally do through years of friendly coverage. Then, like BuzzFeed, they turn around and throw a family-owned dealership in Fort Wayne under the national media spotlight for a completely reasonable decision.

For all the hand-wringing in 2016 about how the press could better cover Middle America, little has really improved. New Yorkers thrusting an Indiana Honda dealership into the national media over a non-story is only the latest unfortunate example.

After Johnston chatted with BuzzFeed “briefly,” the outlet reported that he refused to answer further questions and ended the conversation by saying, “I think I’ve got more important things to do with my time right now, and I don’t think that’s any business of yours.” He’s exactly right.

Emily Jashinsky is culture editor at The Federalist. You can follow her on Twitter @emilyjashinsky .

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