The Atlantic Fires Columnist Who Said Those Who Get Abortions Should Be Hanged

Kevin Williamson was a controversial hire from the start

In 2014, Williamson said he would continue to defend his stance on capital punishment and abortions, adding that what he "had in mind was hanging."
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The Atlantic fired recent hire and highly criticized columnist Kevin Williamson, who said people who get abortions should be hanged.

Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg told staff in an email today that while he thought the former National Review correspondent was a “gifted writer,” The Atlantic would be “parting ways” with Williamson after coming to the conclusion that the publication isn’t “the best fit for his talents.”

At first, Williamson’s remark was thought to have lived only on Twitter. Goldberg initially defended hiring Williamson, telling staff in an email that he liked to “give people second chances,” Slate reported. New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens also came to Williamson’s defense, writing that “for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet.

Sentiments changed on Wednesday, when Media Matters for America unearthed comments Williamson made on an episode of his National Review podcast in 2014 that he would continue to defend his stance on capital punishment and abortions, adding that what he “had in mind was hanging.”

Goldberg sent out another email to staff today stating that the language used in the podcast as well as in the tweet and in conversations he had with Williamson accurately represented the former columnist’s views.

“The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it,” Goldberg said. “Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”

Some took to Twitter to defend Williamson.

Others lauded The Atlantic for the decision, with some highlighting their disapproval that Williamson was hired in the first place.

In the memo, Goldberg expressed The Atlantic’s goal to be “a big-tent journalism organization at a time of national fracturing.”

“We will continue to build a newsroom that is, as The Atlantic’s founding manifesto states, ‘of no party or clique,'” Goldberg continued. “We are also an organization that values a spirit of generosity and collegiality. We must strive to uphold that standard as well.”

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.