Kevin Williamson did not last very long at The Atlantic magazine. The conservative columnist was hired about a month ago. Now he’s been let go after his comments related to abortion created an uproar among Atlantic readers.
Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg told CNN Williamson’s comments “ran contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”
What makes the firing interesting is that Williamson made the comments in question four years ago, long before he was hired by the magazine. At the time, Williamson tweeted that “the law should treat abortion like any homicide.”
Once again, that was back in 2014. When Williamson was hired, someone grabbed the tweet and sent it around again on Twitter. At the time, Williamson had suggested that the death penalty in question be “hanging.”
When the comments began circulating again, Williamson tried to say the comments were just one small exchange, not the sum of his feelings on the topic. “One’s life works should be judged by an intemperate tweet and that such an episode should not necessarily stop someone from having a fruitful career at The Atlantic.”
Many sprung to Williamson’s defense, agreeing with that version of events. Then, Media Matters uncovered a podcast, recorded about the same time, in which Williamson said something similar to what was in the tweet.
Goldberg said it was the podcast, more than the tweet, that caused the company to “reconsider” hiring Williamson: “The language he used in this podcast—and in my conversations with him in recent days—made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views… The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it. Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent.”
Goldberg said he still wants his staff to “grapple with complex moral issues” however Williamson’s views went too far. “Some of our colleagues are pro-life, and some are pro-choice; we have pro-death-penalty and anti-death-penalty writers; we have liberals and conservatives… We obviously understood that Kevin himself is pro-life when we asked him to write for us. This is not about Kevin’s views on abortion.”
That position is going to be a hard-sell to some conservatives who already feel under-represented in the media, especially in traditional print vehicles like The Atlantic. Williamson, at this point, isn’t saying much about the dismissal, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep silent on the issue forever. In the meantime, the right side of the media spectrum has already started a narrative that accuses The Atlantic of “silencing” dissenting viewpoints. This conversation is just beginning.