Friday night I was on my way to a date at Texas Roadhouse when I got a call from my boss at the DI informing me that I was being let go over a Facebook post that had been brought to their attention. A couple hours after the date, she gently told know via text message that I’m just not her type. Not a great start to my weekend.
Friday night I was on my way to a date at Texas Roadhouse when I got a call from my boss at the DI informing me that I was being let go over a Facebook post that had been brought to their attention. A few hours later my date texted me that I just wasn’t her type. Not a banner start to my weekend.
The post that got me fired was about a recently hired Calvin Klein model named Jari Jones who is probably very nice and certainly didn’t deserve to be attacked just for being a transgender person, in a manner that was also racially insensitive. The now deleted post was made rashly, it was incendiary, and contradicts my Christian values. I suppose it does reflect well on those who follow my Facebook page, American Exceptionalism, that no one liked, shared or commented on the post. I used to have a transgender coworker who was very kind and helpful. When I think about that I feel a genuine sense of remorse. I feel like I’ve tarnished my reputation and it sucks.
Maybe I shouldn’t spread this wider than it already has been; but for the sake of transparency, here it is.
I think when you make a mistake this stupid, it’s best to address it head-on. I do stand by political views on transgenderism that some consider controversial (I saw several screenshots of my American Exceptionalism posts on Twitter Friday night). It is unfair that many high school and college athletic associations allow transgenders who are biologically male to compete in female competitions, which I have explained in other posts to that Facebook page — although not always as prudently or considerately as I should have. I’ll refer to this excellent National Review piece by Rich Lowry. He lays out that argument much more eloquently than I could. Again, that may be controversial but I would rather never work again than apologize for sincerely held beliefs.
This isn’t one of those faux, groveling PRish apologies that some celebrities give when caught up in a controversy. It is the proper role of a political commentator to express opinions that offend some people. But this post had nothing to do with high school athletic policies, the recent Bostock v. Clayton County Supreme Court decision, or even politics at all. That post I made about Calvin Kline and Jari Jones on Thursday night was just mean-spirited, nasty, and I regret it. Transgender people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
The Editor in Chief and all the other editors I’ve worked under at The Daily Iowan treated me fairly and provided a fantastic work environment, which makes this controversy especially painful. I will always be grateful for the opportunities and learning experiences I had there. The DI has a stellar, award winning reputation and I feel like some of my worst social media posts have distracted from that. I am truly sorry for the stress and embarrassment I’ve caused them.
I hold no animosity toward The Daily Iowan, they handled this exactly the way any decent newspaper should. I’ve seen some attacks on The DI for waiting until Friday to fire me, apparently there are other posts that some people found questionable too. A publication cannot be expected to run omnipotent social media surveillance on its employees. That would be silly. If something gets brought to your attention, you assess the situation and address it. That’s exactly what the DI did. In my own defense, I was never hiding the fact that I ran that Facebook page. It was explicitly linked to in my resume when they hired me. I have the emails to prove it.
I have also noticed some of my detractors online taking issue with my social media posts about the BLM protests. Millions of people have been protesting legally and peacefully over the course of the past month. I respect their right to do that. What happened to George Floyd was horrible. No suspect should ever be brutalized like that in police custody. It’s unAmerican.
Maybe I could’ve done a better job of explicitly distinguishing rioters from peaceful protestors. My ire in that regard was directed at the rioters who were looting, burning, and screaming obscenities at police officers. I was horrified during the peak of those riots — watching dozens of videos on twitter of businesses and property being ruthlessly plundered and destroyed. Innocent civilians were assaulted and murdered by savage mobs. Beautiful monuments to our history are still being ruined across the country, but that for another day.
I get the feeling that some of these people who posted screenshots of my dumbest social media posts don’t hate me because of the posts, they hate me because I’m an outspoken conservative. I pray for them, that they may find more productive uses of their time than canceling people they disagree with. If one of them had messaged me privately asking me why I would say that about Jari Jones or commented their disagreement on the post before shining a spotlight on it, I probably would’ve realized how vile it was and deleted it. But for them it’s not about improving the discourse or having conversations. They just want to shame anyone who contradicts constantly changing leftist orthodoxy, ruin careers, and bask in their own sanctimony. The current climate of cancel culture is insipid and destructive.
I started that Facebook page in 2011 when I was 19. For the first few years it was just a casual outlet to vent my political frustrations in a way that didn’t bombard the newsfeeds of my Facebook friends with fiery conservative rhetoric. Gradually the posts got longer and more coherent. It really helped me to hone my writing skills. It grew substantially through the years to over 15,000 followers. In early 2016 I launched a WordPress blog and wrote about 24 opinion pieces over the next eight months. I got very passionate about it. That’s how I decided I wanted to go into political commentary as a career.
But I’m not 19. I’m 28 now, which makes getting fired from a college newspaper over my social media antics all the more humbling. In the back of my mind I had a hunch there might be a contradiction between running my AE page and working for the DI. I had been running this page for so many years. It was this little platform and brand that I’d put so much time and energy into creating and sustaining. In hindsight I should’ve discussed that concern with the DI editors and I’m sure we could’ve worked something out, or they would’ve at least warned me not to post crazy stuff.
Sometimes I felt a quasi-anonymity in having a prominent Facebook platform without my face on it, my name loosely attached, and that only I controlled. This gave me a false sense of legitimacy to post my most controversial thoughts, sometimes without much of a filter. Obviously I would never say anything like that to someone like Jari Jones in person, but the internet made feel insulated from any potential backlash, until it caught up with me. I don’t agree with everything I’ve ever said. No one does. But I am responsible for the things I’ve said, which is why I’ve written this rambling explanation/heartfelt apology.
Initially I considered deleting the page, but I don’t think that would solve anything at this point. I already screwed myself out of my DI opinions job, so it wouldn’t really make sense to get rid of the other platform that I love even more. I’ve attracted many loyal followers over the years who value my political perspective, and I value theirs when they comment on my posts. Their support means so much to me. In part, they gave me the confidence that I was talented enough to make a career out of political writing. I will be more careful to make sure that all of my social media posts going forward are done in a manner that I can stand behind and take pride in.
I’ve grown in my political ideology to admire thoughtful, principled conservatives like Jonah Goldberg and Dennis Prager. I am disgusted by attention-thirsty provocateurs like Candace Owens or Dinesh D’souza, who say outrageous things merely for the shock value, and looking back on previous posts I’ve realized that on occasion I’ve been no better than them.
Sunday night I reviewed roughly 200 of my AE posts going all the way back to the beginning of January. None of them were half as bad as what I posted Thursday night. It made me feel a little better about myself and a lot dumber for the situation. I edited like three of the posts and deleted two of them. Thursday was just the perfect storm of bad luck and foolishness. I should have known that my piece defending the Iowa City Police would motivate my harshest critics find a good reason that I’m a bad hombre. And I handed it to them on silver platter.
After dropping out of community college, working random jobs, and drinking too much until I was 24; I decided to get my shit together when my closest family members warned me I was headed down a bad path after I was arrested for drunk driving. So I took their advice and quit drinking with the help of AA.
For the past four years I’ve been working my ass off at getting decent grades and building a writing portfolio worthy of getting my byline in a prominent publication. I spent countless hours working on those opinions for my job at The Daily Iowan, which only took a few minutes to lose.
This fall I’ll graduate from the University of Iowa with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Political Science. I am incredibly grateful to my family, particularly my Mom and one of my uncles, whose support and encouragement made this degree possible.
This is in no way intended as a sob story. No one should feel sorry for me. I am far more angry at myself than the people who scoured the internet, quickly found the worst examples of what I’ve said online, and ratted me out to The DI. I blatantly violated my college newspaper’s social media policy.
This isn’t really comparable to what happened to Carson King last fall. They dug up his tweets from eight years ago, and my Facebook post from the night before. Unlike King, I am intentionally a public figure. I just hope that emphasizing this experience will spur someone else to be more responsible online, and maybe even avoid losing a cool job like I did. Again, I am genuinely sorry to Jari Jones and The Daily Iowan.