[Fox News] Ex-New York Times journalist reports being ‘disgusted’ by newsroom cancel culture, says the paper allowed it

Read Time:8 Minute, 33 Second

Nellie Bowles landed what she thought was her dream job as a reporter for The New York Times in 2017, but when the progressive “movement,” as she described it, took over the newsroom, a cold reality set in. 

Bowles, once a staunch progressive and a proud member of the so-called “movement,” is the author of the new book “Morning After the Revolution,” which documents how the leftist ideology that has gained so much momentum in recent years hasn’t actually worked in practice. And that includes inside the Times. 

Bowles was working at the Times during the fallout of the now-infamous Sen. Tom Cotton op-ed that sparked an open revolt among staffers in June 2020, many of them taking to social media and posting the phrase “Running this puts Black @nytimes staff in danger.”

“I wasn’t going to tweet the tweet we all had to tweet that day, and that was really the final moment for me in the movement within the paper,” Bowles told Fox News Digital in an interview. “Because once people saw that I wasn’t going to tweet the tweet, that to them was picking a side. And we all had to raise our voices together and try to get the editors fired… We all had to shout together to get everyone who touched that thing fired. And I just wasn’t willing to do that.”

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Cotton’s op-ed, titled “Send in the Troops,” argued in favor of then-President Trump deploying the military to quell the George Floyd riots that wreaked havoc in cities across the country. 

Days later, following intense backlash from both inside and outside the Times newsroom, the paper’s leadership said the op-ed “fell short of our standards and should not have been published.” Two members of the Times Opinion staff, James Bennet and Adam Rubenstein, were ultimately pushed out of the Times as a result. Another staffer, James Dao, was reassigned to a different department. 

“I lost friends immediately, friends who were demanding that I post [the tweet],” Bowles said. “Anyone who didn’t post that was seen as very suspicious from that day onward. In retrospect, it was so nuts.”

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Another moment that profoundly impacted her was the February 2021 ousting of veteran Times reporter Donald McNeil Jr

“He was done so dirty in how he was smeared,” Bowles said. “He was someone I really respected and his work I really respected. Like, this is a guy who was early covering AIDS when everyone was scared to talk about the topic. This guy was doing deep reporting. He’s incredible and had given his life to the institution and in many ways was having a kind of career that I thought I would have as a longtime Times person.”

McNeil, who had been at the Times for 45 years, was the subject of uproar within the newsroom after it was reported that he had used the “n-word” in a discussion about the slur itself on a 2019 college educational trip he led. He resigned shortly after.  

“To see this man smeared and to see how casually it was done- and smeared in such a way that- it’s like a deep shaming… they’re trying to make it so his children and grandchildren will be embarrassed. They’re trying to frame it as though this man shouted a slur. It just isn’t true. It’s false,” Bowles said. 

“And watching that had a really big impact on me, not just in a selfish way of like, ‘I don’t want to let them do that to me.’ Basically, when the movement wants to figure out something you’ve done wrong, they’ll find something. There’s no one pure enough to survive a full investigation by the movement.” 

“Part of me also was just disgusted by an institution that would allow for someone to be treated that way. And for someone who’d given their life to the institution to be treated that way. And so it really struck me. And it helped me become less naive about the nature of any for-profit company,” she continued. 

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As Bowles details in her book, she herself admits to participating in cancel culture, even playing a pivotal role in the cancelation of one of her own friends.

“To do a cancelation is a very warm, social thing,” Bowles writes. “It has the energy of a potluck. Everyone brings what they can, and everyone is impressed by the creativity of their friends. It’s a positive thing, what you’re doing, and it doesn’t feel like battle so much as nurturing the love of one’s friends, tending the warm fire of a cause. You have real power when you’re doing it. And with enough people, you can oust someone very powerful.”

In the book, Bowles recalls how she tried canceling one of her Times colleagues who had a reputation in the building for having heterodox views. She “failed spectacularly” at the cancelation attempt and instead “fell in love immediately.”

That colleague was Bari Weiss, then a Times opinion page editor, now Bowles’ wife. 

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“At the time, I was in very good stead at the paper, and I was a good progressive, and I knew Bari was a dissident liberal and… I don’t know, I can’t explain it. I just met her and I fell in love,” Bowles told Fox News Digital. “And I liked the debates. I mean, one debate we had at the start of our relationship, that we still have, is over Gawker. Was Gawker good? Was Gawker a force for good? And I was very pro-Gawker. I thought, all in all, force for good. And she was arguing it was a force for bad. And that was fun for me! Like, it’s okay if there’s a little friction in relationships and if there’s a little difference. And there’s this idea now that everyone has to be completely in lockstep with each other, and it’s so dull!”

“I had a friend from college who reached out to me and said I need to publicly disavow Bari, that in order to stay in the good, if I want to keep dating her, I need to publicly disavow her. And I was just like, ‘What are you talking about?! Like in what world?!’ Like, it was so insane.”

The animosity towards Bowles’ newfound love didn’t just come from old college friends. It even came from her own Times colleagues. In her book, Bowles recounts getting drinks with her editor and other staffers one night with the editor accusing her of dating a “f—ing Nazi.”

“I just sort of was awkward and uncomfortable, and I didn’t know what to do,” Bowles said. “It was so strange that this was happening, and it was so strange how quickly you go from in the good to in the very, very bad. And it was surreal. Like I felt a little, like, out of body for a moment. And then the moment past and that editor just thought all my ideas were pretty bad after that night.” 

“What’s hard is I liked him. And I like him even still on some level…. What’s crazy, the really crazy thing is, even after that, even after an editor called my girlfriend a Nazi and my colleagues nodded and laughed, even after that I thought, ‘I can still stay here, I can still I can still work here. This is going to be fine.’ I mean, the delusion once you’re inside one of these places and the level of commitment people are willing to go to is pretty wild.”

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Weiss resigned from the Times in July 2020, weeks after the internal eruption over the Cotton op-ed that impacted her opinion page colleagues. 

In a scathing open letter to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, Weiss said she faced constant bullying for having differing views and declared, “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor.” 

Bowles left the Times the following year. 

“My parents are super supportive, but also they were like, ‘You’re quitting?!? And you guys are starting a Substack called BariWeiss.Substack.com?!? Like, what? Like it sounds crazy!'” Bowles recalled. “Even Bari’s family was shocked at first. It was a really weird moment. I think a lot of people in 2021 felt like the hangover from the peak of the revolution. And obviously, we were far from being done with the revolution, but we all sort of realized, oh wow, there’s been a paradigm shift we’re in. There’s a movement now that’s happening, and we have to sort of find our footing in all of this.”

Bowles says she’s able to forgive those like her former editor since it’s hard to “resist a mob when one is forming,” particularly in such a hyper-politicized era. But between the increasing pushback she received for wanting to pursue stories her bosses didn’t want her to cover (like Seattle’s disastrous autonomous zone CHAZ in 2020) and the open animosity towards her partner, she had to remove herself from the “movement” that plagued the Times newsroom. 

“Obviously, through being frustrated with my reporting but also through falling in love, I just realized this movement required a purity that’s not possible and that’s not healthy and that doesn’t make a good life,” Bowles said. “I think any movement you’re in that says you can only be friends with, or you can only fall in love with someone who is exactly the same as you is an unhealthy movement.”

The Times did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

Bowles and Weiss married in 2021 and launched The Free Press in 2022. Bowles started her book tour while approximately eight months pregnant with their second child due in late June. 

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