NY Times fires editor who went on tirade against gun rights group

Back in July the NY Times hired Erin Marquis as an editor for their Wirecutter site. If you’re not familiar with Wirecutter, it’s a site full of product reviews and recommendations. So, for instance, today there’s an article titled “The Best Pet Camera” and another titled “The Best Apple Wireless Charging Stations.”

But in December, after a school shooting in Michigan, Marquis apparently lost it and started lashing out at a Michigan gun rights group.

“Just got a news release from the Great Lakes Gun Rights organization about protecting gun rights from democrats in Michigan and I am literally shaking with rage,” wrote Marquis, who has since deleted her Twitter account following online criticism that she had violated journalism standards by promoting a political viewpoint. “I hope there is a God and they meet that God someday.” She also tweeted out a phone number and email address for the group, which is the Michigan state affiliate of the National Association for Gun Rights.

If Marquis had stopped shaking with rage and left it at one tweet, she might have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Instead she called up the NAGR and began leaving them equally angry voice mail messages. On December 2, the group posted the voice mail on YouTube:

The Post says they haven’t independently confirmed this is Marquis but it’s basically the same message she posted on Twitter. “Aren’t you just, like, a little bit worried that there might be a hell, and when you meet God, he will send you there?” she said.

After the audio was posted the NY Times announced they were suspending Marquis while they reviewed the incident. Then today they announced she’d been fired:

“The employee has been terminated from Wirecutter following our investigation related to inappropriate behavior,” a spokesperson told The Washington Post on Friday morning. “We expect our employees to behave in a way that is consistent with our values and commitment to the highest ethical standards. Repeatedly invoking the New York Times’s name in an unprofessional way that imperils the reputation of Wirecutter, The Times, and all of our journalists is a clear violation of our policies and cannot be tolerated.”

As should be obvious from that statement, the paper’s real problem here wasn’t with Marquis having an opinion about gun control it was with her using the clout of the NY Times to try to elevate that personal opinion and to make some kind of vague threat that she was going to tell others at the Times about them.

I could be wrong but I think if she’d left the Times out of it, she might have kept her job. As it was, almost any employer would fire someone who did this even if they weren’t part of a news organization. If some junior accountant called up the NRA (or Planned Parenthood) and began ranting, “I’m from Deloitte and you bastards are in trouble now,” that person would be fired if the employer learned about it. You just can’t use the entire brand, in which you are a pretty minor player, as your personal cudgel.

Of course I think we all suspect that most NY Times journalists and editors agree with Erin Marquis, but most of them are smart enough not to vent their outrage in public or on an answering machine. They know they’re not supposed to appear biased on hot-button political issues even though they are.