Weiss sells herself as a centrist, but by New York City standards at least, her commentary often appeals to conservatives. Her uncompromising support for Israel, for instance, is hardly in the Timesean mainstream. Her most famous columnist construction, the “intellectual dark web,” was promoted as a group of free thinkers—but the list had a definite rightward cast. Weiss’s job at the Times was that of an editor and writer for the opinion pages, as opposed to a full-time opinion columnist, which would be considered a higher-profile gig on its face, but one often eclipsed by the screamy backlash to her writings. In this role she stepped right into the white-hot center of the so-called woke wars, with essays that were critical of liberal phenomena like #MeToo and campus activism, and the occasional tweet that was either misguided or downright offensive, depending on whom you ask. (Remember the Mirai Nagasu incident?)
As Weiss told Evgenia Peretz in a Vanity Fair profile last year, “Is our job to be a warm bath and an ideological safe space for people who we think are our readers? Or is it our job to show them the scope of opinions, legitimate opinions, that people all over this country have? I think that’s our job. But there are other people out there who apparently think the job of a newspaper is almost to be socialist realist art.”
Weiss doesn’t lack fans or allies whom Twitter lefties would approve of. (She and the former Vice staff writer Eve Peyser published a conversation two years ago about how they went from enemies to pals.) But during her three years at the Times, she was nothing if not prolific in her accumulation of haters, including many of her own colleagues. Before her resignation letter appeared online Tuesday morning, sources familiar with the situation told me Weiss felt increasingly marginalized and that talk of her leaving the Times had been brewing for weeks. As one source put it, “she really felt attacked by her colleagues on Slack,” the internal messaging platform that has also become a go-to forum for broadcasting grievances.
It all seemed to come to a head with the crisis surrounding the botched Tom Cotton op-ed that culminated in the defenestration of editorial page editor James Bennet last month. “The civil war inside The New York Times,” Weiss declared in a Twitter thread on June 4, “between the (mostly young) wokes the (mostly 40+) liberals is the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country.” Some Times journalists publicly criticized the tweets, and the internal reactions on Slack were apparently all the more brutal. Baquet eventually chimed in and asked people not to attack one of their own colleagues.
In her letter Weiss wrote, “My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’ Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.” (Summing up the sentiment of the anti-Weiss crowd, one Times journalist snarled, “I will be watching to see if Bari Weiss ever achieves something that matches the exalted view she has of herself.”)