Two weeks ago, The Atlantic announced that it was hiring Kevin D. Williamson, a conservative who had written for years at the National Review, as an “ideas columnist.” On Thursday, editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg announced that Williamson had been fired. So what changed in that handful of days?
The announcement of Williamson’s hiring drew immediate ire because he is a troll demon who’s tweeted that women who get abortions should be hanged and written pieces where he described black children as “three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg” and trans actress Laverne Cox as “an effigy of a woman.”
In an internal memo on the hire published by Slate, Goldberg defended his decision to bring Williamson on board, renewing his call for “intellectual diversity,” and dismissing the writer’s atrocious tweets, writing, “I don’t think that taking a person’s worst tweets, or assertions, in isolation is the best journalistic practice.” Williamson, Goldberg argued, deserved a “second chance.”
Earlier this week, Media Matters dug up clips from Williamson’s podcast that basically reiterated all of his heinous views, including, once again, that women who get abortions should be executed. Today, Goldberg referenced the resurfaced podcasts as one of the reasons why he was firing Williamson. Goldberg said that despite Williamson being a “gifted writer,” the podcast showed that “the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views.”
To which everyone else in the world responded: Of course it did.
Nothing has really changed in the time between Williamson’s hiring and firing except for extremely well-deserved public outrage directed at the magazine, which made him too big of a liability for The Atlantic. Even if Goldberg did, at the time, truly believe Williamson’s abortion tweet was just “impulsive” rather than an indication of his actual views, he still hired someone whose impulse is to, well, hang women for having abortions.
That Williamson genuinely believes the horrendous opinions he has tweeted and written about—which are widely available on the public record—is no surprise. What bears remembering here, even amid celebrating that Williamson is unemployed, is that Goldberg deemed it acceptable to hire him in the first place.