The New York Times on Tuesday announced it had hired writer Quinn Norton as an opinion columnist, then just hours later the newspaper reversed its decision and said she would not be joining after all.
The Times editorial board announced on Tuesday morning that Norton had been hired as a columnist on power, culture, and the consequences of technology.
"We’re excited to have Quinn to help our readers understand what’s possible and what’s sensible, and where we’re all headed," the board said.
Norton, who previously covered the Occupy and Anonymous groups for Wired magazine, has also had her work published in the Atlantic and other publications, according to her personal website.
On her Patreon page, Norton said that she had "gently shot down" the idea of writing for the Times when members of the editorial board first approached her in January.
"I tried to imply, strongly, I'm kind of weird," she wrote, before eventually accepting the offer. Her goal in taking the position, she said, was "to help the world understand itself well enough to stop the abuse before it started."
After the Times announced the hire, people on Twitter noticed Norton had repeatedly used offensive language and slurs on the social platform.
In a conversation in 2013, Norton wrote, "You are laying waste to your own fucking ideals, you shit eating hypersensitive little crybaby fag."
"Here's the deal, faggot," she continued. "Free speech comes with responsibility. not legal, but human. grown up. you can do this."
In 2014, she wrote, "Today I realized I'd probably make a lot more money being a racist for @nytimes."
Norton also said she has "been friends with various neo-Nazis," though she never agreed with them.
After the old tweets surfaced, people slammed the Times over its decision to hire her.
The controversy comes after a dustup earlier this week over New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss, who called US athlete Mirai Nagasu an "immigrant" in a now-deleted tweet. Nagasu was born in California.
One writer asked about Quinn's friendship with Andrew Auernheimer, aka Weev, a notorious alt-right troll who has been associated with the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer.
Norton's rapport with Auernheimer, who used the Twitter handle @Rabite before he was suspended, is extensive.
In some cases, Norton attempted to justify her previous language by saying she was adopting the language of online forums like 4chan.
"I keep forgetting then getting surprised when 'fag' and 'tard' mean something other than person from IRC."
IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat," an old method for people to instant message online.
Hours later, in response to questions about the backlash, a spokesperson for the New York Times said in a statement, "We are very concerned about the tweets that are circulating today and are looking into the matter."
And Norton implied that she wouldn't be taking the job at the Times after all.
In response to criticism of her use of "fag" and "faggot," she tweeted, "I've been a queer activist since 1992. When I speak to communities, I used their language to do it."
She added that she doesn't "support weev" and "white folks should engage with the racists in their life."
"Weev doesn't talk to me much anymore, but we talk about the racism whenever he does," she continued. "My door is open when he, or anyone, wants to talk, but we're talking about the stupidity of racism and the people in my life know that to be true."
In response to criticism of a retweet that used the n-word, Norton wrote that it was sarcasm.
Then on Tuesday evening, James Bennet, the Times' editorial page director, said in a statement that in light of her tweets, the paper had decided to part ways with Norton.
"Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us," he said. "Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways."
Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Blake Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.