Those operatives don’t have to look too far, as plenty of journalists have self-published embarrassing materials on this obscure internet backwater known as “Twitter.”
Remarkably, quite a few journalists see the social network as a safe space for bigoted remarks they regret only after being “exposed.” Again, Twitter is mostly a public forum; it has a powerful search engine that quickly indexes tweets and makes them easy to discover.
Last month, Mohammed Elshamy resigned from his job as photo editor at CNN after several anti-Semitic tweets resurfaced, including one from 2011 that read: "More than 4 jewish pigs killed in #Jerusalem today by the Palestinian bomb explode. #Israel #Gaza."
Speaking to the NYT, Elshamy blamed Trump supporters for digging up the old tweets and explained they were made when he was still learning English as a teenager in Egypt. The NYT didn’t cite the tweets in its story, describing them only as “anti-Semitic.”
NYT editor Tom Wright-Piersanti apologized after conservative news outlet Breitbart re-published tweets he wrote during his college years that made fun of Jews.
Wright-Piersanti wrote in a Jan. 1, 2010, tweet: “I was going to ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic.” He wrote, “Who called the Jew-police?” next to a photo of a Menorah posted on Dec. 16, 2009. The tweets are now deleted.
Last year, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins apologized for making anti-gay slurs on Twitter as a college student.
Describing the embarrassing tweets as youthful indiscretions is a common theme among journalists trying to make amends.
It's less forgivable when seasoned media professionals look to deflect blame.
NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger highlighted the newspaper’s story about the efforts to discredit journalists in a laughable public memo. “This represents an escalation of an ongoing campaign against the free press,” Sulzberger wrote.
No, it isn’t. Recycling old tweets isn’t nearly as significant a threat to the free press as other forms of intimidation, including jailing or murdering reporters for doing their jobs. Tax authorities also are a common weapon against news publishers in many countries.
He later redeemed himself with the statement: “No organization is above scrutiny, including the Times.”
That’s true. News professionals are held to a high standard of public conduct, and they shouldn’t be surprised when these easily discoverable tweets are used against them to undermine their credibility.