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NYT’s Bret Stephens, King of the “Millennials Are Too Sensitive” Hot Take, Could Not Handle Being Called a Metaphorical Bedbug

Bret Stephens whining on MSNBC.

Yesterday, it was reported that the offices of the New York Times were infested with bedbugs. That’s super gross and also ripe material for all sorts of innocuous jokes. Like this one, for example:

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Initially, that tweet from David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, only got a small smattering of likes and retweets. Actually, according to Karpf, it had nine likes and zero retweets when he got a perplexing email from NYT columnist Bret Stephens himself. Stephens said a friend showed him Karpf’s tweet but I’m going to guess he’s just a name-searcher.

The email–which was also sent to GWU’s provost!–is the definition of extra. “I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people–people they’ve never met–on Twitter,” writes Stephens. “I think you’ve set a new standard.”

A! New! Standard! For! Twitter! A claim at which every female journalist on the internet just rolled their eyes so far back in their heads the whole gender is studying the inside of their skulls.

From there, Stephens invites Karpf to “come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me ‘bedbug’ to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part,” he says.

This is already a ridiculously disproportionate response to a 10-word Twitter joke. But what really takes it over the top is the fact that Bret Stephens has built a career on writing op-eds of the “f*ck your feelings” variety. He’s frequently railed at millennials for being too sensitive, mocked the idea of universities as safe spaces, and decried diversity and inclusion as killing free speech, just to name a few.

Just in case you were wondering why all of Twitter is reacting to Stephens like this:

That’s why.

But wait! There’s more! Stephens deleted his Twitter account but then proceeded to appear on MSNBC to try to defend himself, only to come off–somehow– even worse than he already did. First, he said that by cc’ing Karpf’s provost, he wasn’t intending to get him in any kind of “professional trouble,” which is clearly just a straight-up lie.

ETA: The provost has made it clear they DGAF.

Stephens also called Karpf’s words “dehumanizing” and said it was reminiscent of language used by “totalitarian regimes.” Now, yes, that is factually true and it’s understandable that Stephens, who is Jewish, might be sensitive about that.

It’s also one hell of a stretch to compare Karpf’s joke to Nazi rhetoric. And not a lot of people are willing to go through those mental gymnastics for a man who has used some pretty dehumanizing language himself.

(image: screencap)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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