NYTimes Fires Writer After Profanity-Laced Voicemails To Gun Rights Group

NYTimes Fires Writer After Profanity-Laced Voicemails To Gun Rights Group
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File

I’m somewhat shocked at the decision by the New York Times to part ways with writer Erin Marquis, who worked for the paper’s product review site Wirecutter. I mean, they’ve held on to Taylor Lorenz throughout her repeated bouts of awfulness, though I suppose the case could be made that Lorenz has never gone so far as to use her position with the paper to go after Second Amendment supporters.

On Dec. 2, two days after a high school student shot and killed four classmates in Michigan, Marquis posted a message on Twitter criticizing a group called Great Lakes Gun Rights for urging supporters to oppose gun control legislation proposed in the aftermath of the shooting.

“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.

The national organization reacted by publishing an audio recording that it said contains voice-mail messages that Marquis had left at its offices, expressing her anger at the group. In the messages, which could not be independently verified as coming from Marquis, the speaker identifies herself as “a journalist at the New York Times” and asks: “How do you sleep at night? And 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?” The speaker then says she is “letting everyone at the New York Times know” what she thinks of the organization.

Once NAGR released the audio of Marquis’ (alleged) voicemail, the paper announced that the writer had been suspended while an internal investigation took place. On Friday, the Times revealed Marquis won’t be coming back.

“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.”

I’m sure that some of Marquis’ former colleagues will commence to complaining about conservative cancel culture (at least among themselves), but to be honest I’m not aware of any big online campaign to have Marquis fired. This seems more a consequence of violating the Times’ own policies rather than a concerted effort on the part of Second Amendment activists to force her out, and while I’m surprised that they’ve actually fired Marquis, they really didn’t have much of a choice.

Marquis has the right to her opinion, and she can be as anti-gun as she wants on her own time, but once she started tossing around her employer’s name in profanity-laced voicemails to 2A groups, it became a professional and not a personal issue. There are plenty of anti-gun hacks getting paid by the New York Times, but most of them don’t call up 2A groups and insult them while invoking the name of their employer.

That was the mistake that was fatal to Marquis’ employment. In fact, if one of the opinion writers for the Times said the exact same thing in a column, it likely would have run without any editorial concerns. But Marquis isn’t an opinion writer for the Times. She is, or at least was, an editor for a product recommendation site. Maybe the Times would have run that op-ed if Marquis had written it, but she didn’t do that. Instead she decided to hit the self-destruct button on her cushy gig because it felt good to give those “gun nuts” a piece of her mind.

We’ll see where Marquis eventually lands, but I doubt her unprofessionalism is going to lead to her being permanently blacklisted by the press. Who knows, maybe she’ll catch on at Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun “news” site The Trace, where she can complain about gun owners and Second Amendment activists to her heart’s content. But while she’s looking for her next gig, I’d also encourage her to do some real research on the issue of violent crime, including school shootings. If she’s as good at digging for facts as she is at blowing up her employment status, I think she’ll find that while her demands for more gun control may be emotionally satisfying to her, criminalizing a constitutional right does far more harm than help when it comes to saving lives.