Veteran New York Times reporter Donald McNeil Jr. blasted students for having “recovered memories” of the 2019 Peru trip that led to his resignation, according to a new email.
McNeil, who allegedly dropped the N-word and made other disparaging remarks during the trip with students, defended himself to friends in a private email obtained by the Daily Beast.
“I’m amazed at what’s happening. I feel like I’m facing students ‘recovered memories’ from two years ago,” McNeil wrote in the email sent this week. “And other papers are eating it up. I said ‘racism is over?’ Huh?”
He added, “I said ‘ghetto’? I don’t think I’ve said ‘ghetto’ except 1. about Warsaw or 2. ironically, with air quotes, since Elvis released that ridiculous song in 1969.”
“A teenager ‘corrected’ me and was upset that I failed to apologize to her/him? I don’t even know how to respond to that. Somehow I think I’d remember it if it had happened,” he continued.
The email comes after one of the trip’s participants, Sophie Shepherd, told the Times that the journalist engaged in a heated conversation with her in which he declared “racism is over.”
Shepherd recalled that he made the offensive remark when she mentioned that her favorite class at Massachusetts’ Phillips Academy Andover had covered racial discrimination within the American education system.
“It’s frustrating, because black Americans keep blaming the system, but racism is over,” Shepherd recalled McNeill saying in a Times piece published Sunday.
“There’s nothing against them anymore — they can get out of the ghetto if they want to.”
Complaints about McNeil’s conduct on the trip resurfaced last month in a report in the Daily Beast.
“I would change the journalist. He was a racist,” one participant told the travel company that partnered with the Times for the trip. “He used the ‘N’ word, said horrible things about black teenagers, and said white supremacy doesn’t exist.”
McNeil, who has been with the Times since 1976, submitted his resignation on Feb. 5, admitting in a statement that he used a “racial slur.”
But the reporter said that he will not be discussing the incident until his resignation becomes official on March 1.
In the email shared this week, he told friends that he is “writing out long answers to everything” — which he vowed to finish by his official resignation date.
McNeil couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday.