New York Times accused of threatening trans staff after publishing gushing JK Rowling defence

JK Rowling during a red carpet event.

The New York Times (NYT) has been slammed for its response to hundreds of contributors who signed an open letter, condemning the publication’s coverage of trans people.

Hours after the letter was made public, the paper published a gushing article defending JK Rowling and comparing criticism of her views on trans people to real-life violence.

An opinion piece, titled In defence of JK Rowling, by columnist Pamela Paul, was published by the news organisation on Thursday (16 February).

In reaction to the news that the Harry Potter author would be appearing on a limited series podcast with former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper, Paul argued that Rowling’s so-called “demonisation” was unjust.

“The campaign against Rowling is as dangerous as it is absurd,” she argued.

“The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie last summer is a forceful reminder of what can happen when writers are demonised.

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“In Rowling’s case, the characterisation of her as a transphobe doesn’t square with her actual views.”

As well as the JK Rowling article, a letter was sent to staff and freelancers, defending the paper’s coverage of trans issues, and stating that policy “prohibits” its staff from “aligning themselves with advocacy groups and joining protest actions”.

Activists have expressed condemnation of Paul’s piece and its message that criticism of Rowling’s views can be compared to the brutal attack that left Rushdie in critical condition for weeks, and without vision in one eye.

Trans rights activist Rose Schmits responded to a tweet noting the article, writing: “Not a dog whistle, but a big booming horn.

“[The]New York Times is now an anti-trans propaganda mouthpiece.”

Gen-Z for Change Politics & Government Affairs director, Olivia Julianna, said the article and many others like it contribute to “radicalisation and violent rhetoric”.

Others questioned the decision to publish the article so soon after more than 350 current and former NYT contributors – journalists, writers and pundits – co-signed the open letter from advocacy group GLAAD, condemning the paper’s coverage of trans people.

Staff claim publication followed ‘lead of far-right hate groups’

Addressed to NYT associate managing editor, Philip B. Corbett, the letter claimed that writers who cover trans issues fairly are “eclipsed” by the sheer volume of anti-trans articles.

“As thinkers, we are disappointed to see the New York Times follow the lead of far-right hate groups in presenting gender diversity as a new controversy,” the letter read.

“Puberty blockers, hormone-replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries have been standard forms of care for cis and trans people alike for decades.

“Some of us are trans, non-binary, or gender-nonconforming, and we resent the fact that our work, but not our person, is good enough for the paper of record.”

The letter cites multiple articles which, it says, either spread misinformation about gender-affirming care for trans youth or attempt to demonise it in some way.

The signatories collectively agreed that the estimated 15,000 words of anti-trans rhetoric compare to the 20th-century treatment of homosexuality by news outlets.

NYT director of external communications, Charlie Stadtlander, confirmed to NBC News that the paper had received the letter following a campaign by GLAAD outside its offices close to iconic Times Square.