In June 2020, Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue Magazine and chief content officer for parent company Conde Nast, argued that the publishing giant failed to give enough space to “Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators.”
On March 5, Conde Nast hired a young black journalist with an excellent pedigree named Alexi McCammond. On March 24, she was to take the reins as editor & chief of the popular periodical, Teen Vogue. Unfortunately, before she even had an opportunity to place photos of her family in her new office, she was forced to resign (aka was fired).
The reason: offensive tweets Ms. McCammond made a decade earlier while a teenager catalyzed a mutiny by Teen Vogue staffers and readers.
The cowardly decision by those involved at Conde Nast to oust Alexi McCammond is regrettable and, quite frankly, pathetic.
Alexi McCammond was a rising star in journalism. She began her career while completing her studies at The University of Chicago, writing articles for a school paper called The Gate. Her first journalistic foray after college was doing freelance work, primarily for Cosmopolitan magazine.
Afterward, McCammond served as an editor for an online platform called Bustle. Next, she joined the politically-centric news organization Axios. During McCammond's tenure there, she was a key contributor to NBC and MSNBC. Her early achievements were recognized in 2019 when Ms. McCammond was named emerging journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists. The following year she was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Heats For Tweets
In 2011, when Alexi McCammond was seventeen years old, she posted several offensive, politically incorrect tweets targeting Asians and the LGBTQ community. She also used the N-word to address a friend and wore a Native American Indian costume on Halloween. A sampling of the tweets is below:
• “Outdone by Asian. #Whatsnew.”
• “Give me a 2/10 on my chem problem, cross out all of my work and don’t explain what I did wrong… thanks a lot stupid Asian TA [teaching assistant]. You’re great,”
• Retweeted a news story about professional baseball umpire Dale Scott coming out as gay, and added : “Why is this ‘newsworthy?’ It’s not.”
• “Hahaha you’re so gay.”
Alexi McCammond owned up to and apologized for the social media snafus she committed as a teenager over a decade ago. Her first (public) act of contrition was in 2019 while she was at Axios, well before her consideration for the Teen Vogue job, and then again just recently. Said McCammond, “I’ve apologized for my past racist and homophobic tweets and will reiterate that there’s no excuse for perpetuating those awful stereotypes in any way…I am so sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language…At any point in my life, it's totally unacceptable.…This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life, in large part because of the intense pain I know my words and my announcement have caused so many of you." Unfortunately, McCammond’s Mea Culpa(s) did not suffice.
Christine Davitt, a social media manager at Condé Nast, complained about McCammond’s hiring “in light of her past racist and homophobic tweets.” Diana Tsui an editor of the eatery recommendation site, The Infatuation, chimed in, “Let’s talk about Condé Nast HR and this questionable hire for Teen Vogue EIC…I’m tired of big media organizations pretending to give a damn about diversity and inclusion. And this especially is a slap in the face given what’s happened to Asian Americans in the past year.” Elaine Welteroth, the former editor in chief of Teen Vogue Magazine, called McCammond's tweets “indefensible.”
After McCammond was hired, correction - after a disproportionate uproar ensued following her hiring - advertisers including Ulta Beauty and Burts Bees announced they would be suspending their ad campaigns with Teen Vogue.
Alexi McCammond “resigned” on March 18. In a robotic statement, Stan Duncan, chief people officer at Conde Nast announced that “after speaking with Alexi this morning, we agreed that it was best to part ways, so as to not overshadow the important work happening at Teen Vogue.”
Following McCammond’s resignation, Davitt tweeted, “[Exhales the deepest sigh I’ve ever sighed]…So proud of my @teenvogue colleagues. The work continues…”
Spineless & Hypocritical
This is what Stan Duncan initially said about Conde Nast’s decision to hire Alexi McCammond despite her mistakes as a teen, “Given her previous acknowledgement of these posts and her sincere apologies, in addition to her remarkable work in journalism elevating the voices of marginalized communities, we were looking forward to welcoming her into our community…In addition, we were hopeful that Alexi would become part of our team to provide perspective and insight that is underrepresented throughout media.” It is painfully obvious that a spineless Mr. Duncan, Anna Wintour, and other key decision makers at Conde Nast capitulated to a woke mob of crybabies overly engrossed in a cancel culture gone awry.
Not to be outdone, Christine Davitt, the self-described “queer fat filipinx femme” that was so abhorred by Ms. McCammond's tweets that she breathed a sigh of relief when McCammond was shown the door, had herself used the N-word in multiple tweets around the same time (2009) McCammond committed her offense! Davitt has since made her twitter account private.
But wait, let us not forget that Alexi McCammond dressed up as an Indian on Halloween…so has tens of millions of other people in the United States at one time or another. To cherry-pick an action from a decade ago and apply it to today’s context is ridiculous and unfair. Because sometimes what is considered appropriate in the past, is frowned upon in the present.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ~2.0 billion people live without toilets; of those ~700 million people must dig a hole before they defecate. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) estimates that almost 800 million people do not have access to potable drinking water. Billions of people do not have access to, nor can afford, basic healthcare. Half the world’s population lacks access to the internet. Millions of people have never made, or received, a telephone call. And a bunch of woke intellectuals sipping $6 lattes in the comfort of climate-controlled homes are apoplectic to the point of forcing a young, accomplished, and appropriately qualified woman to resign because she posted racial and homophobic terms on social media when she was a 17-year-old kid? That is absurd.
We would urge those individuals to reallocate their human capital towards solving more acute problems: A dearth of indoor plumbing, clean drinking water, basic healthcare, and internet access for billions of impoverished global citizens. Imagine if all the commentary about McCammond’s transgressions as a teen were instead channeled towards solving the problems depicted above? “Woke” up. Make a positive contribution in the world of a poor resident of Kashmir, instead of complaining about how offended you are while dressed in expensive cashmere.
Naming & Shaming
At TQC, we do not have a problem naming and shaming adults who act abhorrently and do not own and sincerely apologize for their behavior. Indeed, public condemnation can, and sometimes should be a tool to improve people’s behavior. Furthermore, in a few select instances, such as murder or rape, even if a person was a minor when they committed these offenses and are sincerely remorseful, they should not necessarily get a pass. They should indeed be banned from certain leadership roles. Let us be clear, we are not, and will never, condone what Alexi McCammond posted to social media a decade ago. However, her actions do not come remotely close to reaching, let alone crossing, this type of qualitative threshold.
We take Anna Wintour for her word, Conde Nast needs to give more space to “Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators.” A prudent and responsible step towards remedying this situation would be to reinstate Alexi McCammond.