Another Media Figure in Hot Water Over Racial Slur

Mike Pesca, host of Slate's 'The Gist' podcast, argued with co-workers on Slack about n-word
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2021 7:31 AM CST
Podcast Host Suspended After Slack Debate on Racial Slurs
The Slack app icon is displayed on a computer screen on Dec 2, 2020, in Tokyo.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

In somewhat meta media news, the host for Slate's The Gist podcast has been suspended indefinitely without pay after using a racial slur in a Slack conversation with co-workers about another media figure who used the racial slur. Pesca tells the New York Times he was suspended Monday, and Defector has a detailed account of the Feb. 15 conversation, which took place across a few hours. During a discussion about Donald McNeil, the Times reporter who exited the paper after his own controversy over the n-word, Pesca argued he doesn't think someone using the slur at work should necessarily be fired. Multiple co-workers bristled at Pesca's points, arguing that no one should have to work in an environment that feels hostile, but Pesca doubled down, noting, "There are some limited reasons why a non-African American journalist or professor" might say the slur "when conveying a quote in the name of clarity or factualness." Slate CEO Dan Check soon stepped in and shut down the conversation.

Complicating Pesca's situation: Colleagues say he used the n-word at least twice before in front of co-workers (both times in conversations about the usage of the word). He was also said to have made "flippant" remarks at Slate about nonbinary pronouns, as well as used the n-word at least twice while reporting for NPR in the mid-2000s. A Slate rep confirms to the Wrap that there was more to Pesca's suspension that warranted "further action" than "an isolated abstract argument in a Slack channel." Pesca, meanwhile, tells the Times he's "heartsick" that he hurt colleagues, but that "I hate the idea of things that are beyond debate and things that cannot be said." Some of his co-workers disagree, and they say the issue isn't just him. "The problem isn't simply that Mike Pesca is intellectually lazy and racist," one tells Defector, which notes it's not clear what repercussions, if any, Pesca suffered for the previous incidents. "The biggest problem is that he is accountable to no one." More here. (More racial slurs stories.)

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