NY Times reporter resigns after use of 'n-word' on 2019 educational trip stirs uproar among staff

NY Times reporter disciplined

McNeil used n-word on student trip

A veteran New York Times reporter announced his resignation Friday and offered an apology to his colleagues after a report of racist remarks he made in 2019 caused an uproar among the paper’s staff. 

Last week, The Daily Beast broke the story that Donald McNeil Jr., the Times’ star reporter covering the coronavirus pandemic, had been accused of making sexist and racist remarks, including the “n-word”, while leading a student trip in Peru.

Two days after the Beast reported on a letter written by more than 150 Times staffers expressing outrage at the paper’s handling of the McNeil claims, McNeil wrote a letter of his own to staff explaining what transpired on the 2019 educational trip and announcing his exit. 

“On a 2019 New York Times trip to Peru for high school students, I was asked at dinner by a student whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she made as a 12-year-old in which she used a racial slur,” McNeil began the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. “To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur myself.

“I should not have done that. Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot. It is deeply offensive and hurtful. The fact that I even thought I could defend it itself showed extraordinarily bad judgment. For that I apologize,” McNeil wrote. 

After expressing an apology to the students on the trip, the 66-year-old reporter acknowledged that his “lapse of judgment” has hurt his colleagues and the institution itself, which “puts its confidence in me and expected better.”

“So for offending my colleagues – and for anything I’ve done to hurt the Times, which is an institution I love and whose mission I believe in and try to serve – I am sorry. I let you all down,” McNeil concluded. 

According to Wemple, a separate note from Times executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn told staff, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.”

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


McNeil, the Times’ science and health reporter who has spent the past year covering the coronavirus outbreak for the paper, was reportedly disciplined by the Times after he led students on the trip, which was organized by the company Putney Student Travel and part of a program called New York Times Student Journeys. 

The Beast reported that several participants filed complaints against McNeil, accusing him of making “racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip including, according to two complaints, using the ‘n-word.'”

At least six complaints from either the students or their parents outlined allegations that McNeil used inflammatory rhetoric in addition to making statements about not believing in the concept of White privilege and using “stereotypes about Black teenagers.”

“I expect immediate action on the actions taken by Donald, I am deeply disappointed about the New York Times because of the comments he made during our trip,” one participant expressed in a review of the trip obtained by the Beast. “I think firing him would even be appropriate.”

“Not only did Donald say various racist comments on numerous occasions, but he was also disrespectful to many students during mealtimes and in other settings,” another review read. 

“I would change the journalist. He was a racist,” a third person wrote. “He used the ‘N’ word, said horrible things about black [sic] teenagers, and said white [sic] supremacy doesn’t exist.”


McNeil, who has been with the paper since 1976, was reportedly disciplined by the Times, according to a statement provided to the Beast. 

“In 2019, Donald McNeil, Jr. participated in a Student Journeys as an expert. We subsequently became aware of complaints by some of the students on the trip concerning certain statements Donald had made during the trip,” a Times spokesperson told the Beast. “We conducted a thorough investigation and disciplined Donald for statements and language that had been inappropriate and inconsistent with our values. We found he had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language. In addition, we apologized to the students who had participated in the trip.”

Following its first report, the Beast ran a second report on Wednesday about a letter that Times staffers sent to their bosses expressing condemnation about how the paper handled the McNeil controversy. 


The letter called on the Times to further investigate the claims against McNeil, including any potential claims of racism that may have surfaced since the first report broke, and having McNeil apologize to the student and parents involved with the trip as well as to his colleagues. 

“Our community is outraged and in pain,” the letter read. “Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”

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