New York Times reporter resigns for having referred to a racial slur two years ago

"I am sorry. I have let you all down," science reporter declares.

Published: February 6, 2021 4:18pm

Updated: February 6, 2021 9:28pm

The New York Times reporter who has recently faced backlash for having referred to a racial slur during a conversation with some students two years ago resigned Friday.

Donald McNeil, who as the Times’s science reporter has reported on the COVID-19 pandemic for the past year, was recently accused of referring to a slur during a New York Times high school students’ trip to Peru in 2019. 

His resignation follows a Times review of the incident and an announced Thursday by the newspaper that stated McNeil had been discipline for the incident, with no mention of termination.

McNeil had reportedly used the slur in the context of a discussion about the word itself, something he confirmed in a statement released on Friday. In that statement, McNeil said he was asked whether he thought a student should have been suspended for having used the word in a video. 

"To understand what was in the video," McNeil wrote, "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 itself."

"I should not have done that," he said, calling his reference to the slur "deeply offensive and hurtful." 

In a statement announcing the decision, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn acknowledged that McNeil "has done much good reporting [for the paper] over four decades," but that the editors nevertheless felt "that this is the right next step."

"We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent," the editors said. 

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