Union Accuses NYT Of Racially Targeting Staff In Leak Probe Over Paper’s Israel Reporting

The leader of the union representing New York Times employees has accused the paper of targeting staff of Middle Eastern and North African descent as part of the legacy outlet’s investigation into a leak related to its reporting on Israel and Hamas.

In a letter sent Friday to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, Susan DeCarava, president of NewsGuild of New York, said that union-backed journalists who raised concerns about the paper’s approach to covering Gaza were being “targeted for their national origin, ethnicity and race, creating an ominous chilling-effect across the newsroom and effectively silencing necessary and critical internal discussion.”

The Times launched an internal leak probe, which was first reported on by Vanity Fair, after The Intercept published an exposé in January revealing that the newspaper’s flagship podcast, “The Daily,” had canceled a planned episode of a Times investigative report alleging Hamas militants “weaponized sexual violence” when they attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

According to the exposé, the episode was shelved after the December report could not pass a fact check and had faced questions of credibility from staff and the public.

A Times spokesperson denied the allegation to The Intercept after the exposé’s publication and defended the original reporting in statements to other outlets.

In response to the exposé, the Times’ leadership launched a weekslong investigation to find the alleged whistleblower who leaked information to The Intercept. In her letter, DeCarava said that guild members “asserted their protected right to union representation” when they were called into meetings with management’s investigators.

“What we have learned about these meetings is shocking,” she wrote. “Rather than simple information-gathering, the meetings became a vehicle for the harassment and intimidation of our members.”

According to DeCarava, staff who are part of the company’s Middle Eastern and North African employee resource group experienced “particularly hostile questioning” from Times management, including queries related to their involvement in the group as well as their opinions on the paper’s coverage.

Management’s investigators reportedly also ordered those employees to provide the names of all active members in the group and demanded copies of personal communications between colleagues about their concerns related to the paper’s Gaza coverage, according to a separate statement sent Friday to guild members.

Some of the employees who were called in for questioning “had no connection to the production of The Daily episode, except for the fact that they raised concerns” to standards editors about the original reporting, according to DeCarava’s letter.

“These members went above and beyond to follow company policies in bringing feedback internally to Standards, as The Times encourages its journalists to do,” she wrote.

Last week, The Intercept published a follow-up story questioning the credibility of the Times’ sexual violence investigation. The story revealed that the Times hired Anat Schwartz to co-author the December report, despite being an Israeli filmmaker with no journalism experience who was found to have engaged with genocidal anti-Palestinian rhetoric on social media.

A Times spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Schwartz’s social media activity was “unacceptable” and being reviewed by the company.

The Intercept’s follow-up said that while the Times’ editorial process specifically in the sexual violence report has drawn scrutiny, staffers at the legacy paper have long been concerned over the direction of the Times’ Israel-Hamas coverage.

“As a union, we do not tolerate harassment and racial targeting of our members,” DeCarava wrote in her letter. “We demand that The Times cease what has become a destructive and racially targeted witch hunt.”

A Times spokesperson told The Washington Post that DeCarava’s accusation is “preposterous.”

Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for The Intercept and one of the authors of the exposé, addressed the Times’ investigation in a post on X, formerly Twitter, Friday.

“It’s 2024 and the New York Times is trying to find our sources by targeting its Arab and Muslim journalists for suspicion,” he wrote. “If they let their bigotry guide their investigation, they’re just going to harass a bunch of innocent journalists.”