However, instead of admitting that readers were valid in their concerns, National Editor Marc Lacey decided to defend the piece, written by Richard Fausset.
Most of the criticism of the piece focused on its normalization of Nazism and Hovater’s behavior. For example, the piece states that Hovater goes to Applebees, eats pasta, and is a big “Seinfeld” fan. There’s also a picture of his bookshelf, cat and another one of him food shopping. In other words, there are moments in this piece where Fausset suggests that he’s just like us ― and we have nothing to fear, because he watches TV and likes pasta.
Lacey attempts to address this concern by stating that the point of the article wasn’t to normalize anything, but rather, the Times aimed to “describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think.”
If the aim of this article was to truly describe hate and extremism, then the Times should have talked to the victims of white supremacy. Reporters could have described how hard it is to be a minority in this political climate. They could have described the constant racism and discrimination minorities face on a daily basis. There were so many other paths the Times could’ve taken to show the hate this country is currently experiencing. Instead, the paper took a route that puts the wrong people on an undeserving platform.
When I think about who this article has benefited, I know it isn’t me. I know it doesn’t benefit minorities. I know it won’t benefit the general public. The only people it benefits are the Nazi sympathizers who are now celebrating because they received validation from the NYT.
By normalizing Hovater’s behavior, the paper essentially trades in its resistance to racism for an “all opinions are valid even if the opinions are racist and offensive” stance. But the thing is, all opinions are not valid. At the end of the day, Hovater is a Nazi. His opinion is not and never will be valid. If the article actually answered the question Fausset said he wanted to answer, then this would have been a very insightful article. Fausset set out to explore “the question of, ‘How did an intelligent, social adroit and raised middle class 29-year-old man become a white nationalist?’” But as Fausset says, he never answers this question in his article. Instead, readers are offered an inside look of a Nazi’s favorite foods and TV shows.
Lacey continues his response to the piece with an attempted apology.
We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers. We recognize that people can disagree on how to best tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable though, is the need to shed more light, no less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.
There are so many things wrong with this “apology.” First off, it isn’t one. It puts the blame on the reader instead of the paper itself. This apology reminds me of the ex that says, “I regret that your feelings got hurt.” The Times takes no ownership in a situation where it desperately needs to.
Additionally, the Times’ claim that there’s “an indisputable need” to shed more light, not less, on American life is ridiculous. Not one sane American wakes up thinking, “Oh gee, I wish I knew more about Nazis!” No American wakes up thinking, “I wonder how they’re just like us!” I promise you, The New York Times, no one thinks that way. That being said, your claim is indeed disputable.
By shedding more light on Nazi sympathizers, the Times is essentially giving them more of a platform. This article is basically the newspaper version of inviting Donald Trump on “The Tonight Show” during the election season. There’s no need to give a white supremacist a platform and normalize their behaviors. Especially in this political climate.
It doesn’t help that the article also included a link to a webpage that sells swastika armbands. I’m sure that website gained more traffic and clicks after this article was published. I’m sure some people even bought them. No need for the website to advertise anymore, because The New York Times did it for them. Yet, The New York Times never apologized for sharing the link. Instead, Lacey states, “We saw the criticism, agreed, and removed the link.” If you agreed you were wrong, shouldn’t you apologize?
As someone who has always admired The New York Times, I was disappointed with this article. But even more so, I was extremely disappointed with their apology.
Or, shall I say, the lack of one.