Scarborough: 'Stunning' How NYT Handled Editor's Firing

Friday, 16 May 2014 10:50 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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It was "stunning" and "mind boggling" how badly The New York Times handled the firing of Executive Editor Jill Abramson, host Joe Scarborough said Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Scarborough compared The Times' conflicting statements about Abramson's departure to the way it might have been handled by a "third-rate politician."

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"It's stunning,"  the former GOP congressman said. "It's just mind boggling how badly The New York Times has conducted themselves in this. First of all, the firing. And, then, the follow-up to the firing, offering statements that you would think a third rate politician would offer, only to get punctured by organizations like the Times."

Abramson, 60, was fired abruptly Wednesday and replaced by Managing Editor Dean Baquet, 57. The publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., told employees Abramson was leaving due to "an issue with management in the newsroom."

Ken Auletta, writer for The New Yorker, told "Morning Joe" on Thursday Abramson's firing was over her complaints about salary and issues the Times had with her "brusque" style. Auletta said Abramson had hired a lawyer to approach newspaper officials about raising her pay.

The Times initially said reports about Abramson being paid less were not true and did not influence the decision to dismiss her. Then Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, told Auletta that the request for a higher salary was "a contributing factor" to the firing of Abramson, because "it was part of a pattern."

An update on Auletta's blog Friday indicated Murphy now denies making the statement, but he wrote, "Her quote is accurate and in context."

"Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist on Friday said updated information from Auletta's blog showed Abramson's salary was $85,000 less than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, when she took the helm at The Times in 2011.

"Did they not expect that their faults and misleading statements wouldn't get blown out of the water by people like Ken Auletta?" Scarborough asked.

"The most damning blow for the men and the women is that the Times' leadership put out statements that just weren't truthful. The New York Times lied trying to cover up their own mess, saying there's no compensation problem," he added.

Katty Kay, BBC World America anchor, called the episode "stunning mismanagement" on the part of the Times, and predicted the newspaper would experience a "backlash" from female readers.

"I wouldn't be surprised if women subscribers to the Times are looking quite closely this morning at their subscriptions to that newspaper," Kay told the "Morning Joe" panel Friday.

She also indicated that it put female staffers at The Times in an awkward position, as well as newspaper's reporters covering the story.

"Certainly, women within the organization that I've spoken to say they're blindsided by this, that there's a real sense they've been let down as women in the organization. That there's still an old boys culture at The New York Times," Kay said.

"What The Times has done is undermine their own reporters, undermine women in the organization, and handled this phenomenally badly — the brutality of the firing alone," Kay said.

Scarborough said if New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie had done something similar, "The Times would have shredded him to pieces."

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