Former New York Times reporter Bari Weiss got into a heated exchange with CNN’s Brian Stelter during Sunday’s edition of “Reliable Sources”.
Weiss – who resigned from the Times opinion section in 2020 via a scathing resignation letter in which she criticized the paper’s left-leaning journalists – has a separate section at Substack called Common Sense. At the top of the excerpt, she wrote that “There are tens of millions of Americans who aren’t on the hard left or the hard right who feel that the world has gone mad”. This statement, particularly, struck a chord with host Stelter, who asked Weiss what she meant by that comment.
“Where can I start? Well, when you have the chief reporter on the beat of COVID for The New York Times talking about how questioning or pursuing the question of the lab leak is racist, the world has gone mad. When you’re not able to say out loud and in public there are differences between men and women, the world has gone mad. When we’re not allowed to acknowledge that rioting is rioting and it is bad and that silence is not violence, but violence is violence, the world has gone mad,” Weiss said.
Against the mainstream media
The journalist, who identifies herself as a communicator who represents neither the left nor the right, continued to lambast the traditional press for not covering issues of general interest. She also argued that the anti-racist movement in the United States is out of control, contributing to the loss of common sense in society: “When we are not able to say that Hunter Biden’s laptop is a worthwhile story, the world has gone mad. When, in the name of progress, young children are separated in public schools, starting in kindergarten, because of their race, and that is called progress instead of segregation, the world has gone mad. There are dozens of examples”.
Stelter asked Weiss, “Who’s [sic] the people stopping the conversation?” to which she replied, “People who work at networks, frankly, like the one I’m speaking on right now, to say it was racist to investigate the lab leak theory.”
Weiss’ criticism of CNN was not an isolated comment with no factual basis; over the past year, the news network has published several articles calling the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origin “almost certainly not true” according to experts and has consistently quoted scientists and doctors who have said that the lab theory was not true and that investigating it was racist against Asian people.
At the journalist’s response, Stelter defended his news network and further told Bari Weiss that he didn’t understand her argument because he had seen the issues she mentioned all over the Internet.
“Who said that at CNN? When you say ‘allowed,’ it’s a provocative thing to say,” Stelter said. “You say we’re not allowed to talk about these things but they’re all over the Internet … I’ve heard about every story that you’ve mentioned. So, I’m just suggesting, of course, people are allowed to cover whatever they want to cover.”
Bari Weiss quickly countered Stelter’s argument by explaining that talking about taboo topics or topics not allowed in traditional media can be counterproductive to a journalistic career because there is a risk of being fired, canceled and even censored by Big Tech. This situation, according to the journalist, is generating internal self-censorship among communicators.
“But you and I both know that it would be delusional to claim otherwise that touching your finger to an increasing number of subjects that have been deemed third rail by the mainstream institutions and increasingly by some of the tech companies will lead to reputational damage, perhaps you losing your job, your children sometimes being demonized as well, so what happens is a kind of internal self-censorship.”
The former New York Times journalist went on to criticize the traditional press as well as publishers, Hollywood, and universities for curtailing political speech and politically incorrect topics. “They are reducing, in a radical way, what is acceptable to say and what is not,” said Weiss, who also took aim at the media for generating “disinformation by omission”.