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Professor Joked About Columnist, and Things Spiraled

Bret Stephens wrote back to a professor and cc'd the professor's boss
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2019 8:21 AM CDT
Bret Stephens did not take kindly to a critic comparing him to a bedbug.   (Richard Chambers/The News Dispatch via AP)

(Newser) – A columnist for the New York Times is again making headlines over something he wrote, but in this case it's an email. It seems Bret Stephens took offense to a critical tweet, and now he's being accused of over-reacting. The offending tweet came from George Washington University associate professor Dave Karpf, who made a joke about reports of a bed bug infestation at the New York Times, reports the Daily Beast. "The bedbugs are a metaphor," he wrote. "The bedbugs are Bret Stephens." Stephens caught wind of it and responded with an email that Karpf made public. "I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people—people they’ve never met—on Twitter," he wrote. "I think you’ve set a new standard." He then challenged Karpf to come to his house, meet his family, and "call me a 'bedbug' to my face."

Stephens also cc'd Karpf's boss. "He not only thinks I should be ashamed of what I wrote, he thinks that I should also get in trouble for it," Karpf tells the Washington Post. "That’s an abuse of his power." Mediaite points out that Stephens has railed in his columns about thin-skinned people in our "PC culture" and the importance of free speech. In fact, it notes that one of his columns was headlined "Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort" and another "Leave Your Safe Spaces." Karpf says he made the bedbug slam because he thinks Stephens writes poorly informed columns doubting the dangers of climate change. "I’ve always seen him as this person that everyone complains about but we just can’t get rid of. He’s a bedbug." In response to the controversy, Stephens says his email speaks for itself. (Read more Bret Stephens stories.)

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