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Amy Schneider blasts New York Times’ anti-transgender coverage as the paper defends JK Rowling

Amy Schneider
Amy Schneider Photo: Screenshot

A day after receiving two separate open letters demanding that The New York Times improve its coverage of transgender people, the paper seemingly tripled down on the very type of coverage that has long been criticized as inaccurate, uninformed, and dangerous.

And Jeopardy! champ Amy Schneider had some choice words about the Times‘ refusal to consider the harm their coverage is causing transgender people.

On Thursday, the Times published a defense of notoriously anti-trans author J.K. Rowling in its opinion section, while the paper’s top editor issued a staff memo warning journalists that public criticism of its coverage of transgender issues will “not be tolerated.”

In the memo, executive editor Joe Kahn wrote that the Times had “received a letter delivered by GLAAD, an advocacy group, criticizing coverage in The Times of transgender issues,” according to The Hill.

“It is not unusual for outside groups to critique our coverage or to rally supporters to seek to influence our journalism. In this case, however, members of our staff and contributors to The Times joined the effort. Their protest letter included direct attacks on several of our colleagues, singling them out by name,” Kahn wrote, seemingly conflating a letter from GLAAD and other organizations with a separate letter initially signed by more than 200 Times contributors, which has since been signed by thousands of media workers, readers, and subscribers.

“Participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy. That policy prohibits our journalists from aligning themselves with advocacy groups and joining protest actions on matters of public policy. We also have a clear policy prohibiting Times journalists from attacking one another’s journalism publicly or signaling their support for such attacks.”

“Our coverage of transgender issues, including the specific pieces singled out for attack, is important, deeply reported, and sensitively written,” Kahn’s memo continued. “We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums.”

As Vanity Fair reports, Times spokesperson Charlie Stadtlander claimed that the letter from Times contributors was hand delivered by GLAAD reps along with the organization’s own letter. However, on Thursday organizers of the letter from contributors said that GLAAD had confirmed that they did not deliver copies of both letters to the Times.

The same day, the Times published an opinion column by former New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul titled “In Defense of J.K. Rowling,” arguing that the Harry Potter author, who has for years used her public platform and social media to argue for the exclusion of trans women from public spaces and services devoted to women, is not “a transphobe.”

Schneider—who signed the GLAAD letter alongside celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Judd Apatow, and others—took to Twitter on Thursday to blast the column and the Times’ response to the two letters.

“If certain famous billionaire authors were to advocate for ‘Whites only’ spaces, we’d all see it as the hate speech that it is. But when they advocate for ‘cis only’ spaces, the most powerful newspaper in the country rushes to their defense,” Schneider wrote. “I just get so tired of being told that my health and safety count less than cis people’s, because I’m weird and different, unlike normal innocent cis people.”

“And then when I disagree, and say that trans people deserve safety too, they smile at me pityingly, and explain that their view is ‘impartial’ and mine is ‘advocacy,’” she continued.

As Slate’s Christina Cauterucci notes in her own excellent take-down, Paul’s column was seemingly timed to coincide with the upcoming launch of a new podcast, The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, produced by former Times op-ed writer Bari Weiss’s media company and hosted by Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the anti-LGBTQ+ Westboro Baptist Church.

Vanity Fair reports that Paul’s column was in the works well before the Times received either letter and that editors saw no reason not to publish it on Thursday.

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