Emily Wilder had been targeted by extremist Zionist media outlets; Several journalists criticise AP decision after rightwing media highlight her previous activism in college.
The Associated Press (AP) has fired a news associate, Emily Wilder, for purportedly ‘violating the company’s social media policies, a move that drew backlash from journalists after it became clear that Wilder had been targeted by right-wing media outlets for her pro-Palestinian activism in college.
Wilder confirmed to the Guardian that she was “terminated for violating the company’s social media policies in their News Values and Principles sometime between my start date on May 3 and yesterday”. Wilder said the AP did not detail which of her tweets broke its policies.
A spokesperson for the AP said that while the organization “generally refrains from commenting on personnel matters, we can confirm Emily Wilder’s comments on Thursday that she was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP”.
The spokesperson added that AP’s policy exists so that “one person cannot create dangerous conditions for our journalists covering the story. Every AP journalist is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report on this conflict, or any other, with fairness and credibility, and cannot take sides in public forums.”
“There’s no question I was just canceled,” Wilder told SFGate on Thursday. She said her editor had previously told her she would not “get in any trouble because everyone had opinions in college”, but “then came the rest of the week”.
Rightwing and conservative media outlets began publishing stories this week about Wilder, who had previously worked with the newspaper Arizona Republic after graduating from Stanford University, when the Stanford College Republicans tweeted a thread highlighting her previous activism.
The tweets included screengrabs of Wilder’s previous Facebook posts, in which she is critical of Zionists, including Sheldon Adelson – the late billionaire Trump supporter.
The thread took off. The rightwing Washington Free Beacon speculated that Wilder’s hire in Phoenix “could fuel concerns about the AP’s objectivity amid revelations that the news outlet shared an office building with Hamas military intelligence in Gaza”. The article was amplified by Tom Cotton, the far-right senator of Arkansas.
Although Israel’s military claimed that Hamas military intelligence were operating in the building housing the AP and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said he had seen no evidence indicating that was the case.
Fox News referred to Wilder’s hiring as a “second Middle East-related issue” for the AP after the organization’s offices were bombed.
Wilder, who is Jewish, had tweeted 18 times since she began working at AP. Most were retweets. Her most subjective post was about objectivity, on 16 May. “‘Objectivity’ feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim,” she wrote. “Using ‘Israel’ but never ‘Palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices – yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”
The News Media Guild, the union that represents the Associated Press’s editorial and technology staff members, said it was investigating Wilder’s firing. “The Guild asked if the comments that caused [Wilder’s] termination were posted before or after her hiring and awaits a response.” The News Media Guild also represents staff at the Guardian US.
“I’d bet a lot of money this person is about to get a much better job,” tweeted NBC’s Ben Collins.
Some pointed out that the Stanford College Republicans, who targeted Wilder, had a proclivity for inviting speakers known for their sexist and racist views. In 2019, the group invited the conservative author Andrew Klavan, to speak at an event titled “Yes, America is a Judeo-Christian Nation”.
In an open letter, Emily Wilder reported that after she had been targetted by Zionist media her AP superiors reassured her that she would be protected, but a few days later they changed their mind and fired her for allegedly violating AP policies on social networks.
Wilder, who is Jewish, had promoted the Palestinian cause while in college and her latest social media postings had professionally questioned mainstream media, in reporting about Palestine.
The 22-year-old Stanford graduate was fired by the AP after what she described as a “witch hunt” by conservatives who resurfaced her old social media posts critical of Israel, as well as her pro-Palestinian activism in college.
“It really felt like I got hung out to dry,” said Emily Wilder, who was fired only three weeks after joining the AP as a news associate in Phoenix. The role was not a reporting position and did not involve covering international news.
Wilder told BuzzFeed News that her editors at AP refused to tell her which of her tweets or posts had violated the news agency’s policies. The AP spokesperson also did not specify the offending posts.
Wilder’s termination letter, which she shared with BuzzFeed News, reads, “As discussed, over the last few days some of your social media posts made prior to joining AP surfaced. Those posts prompted a review of your social media activity since you began with the AP, May 3, 2021. In that review, it was found that some tweets violated AP’s News Values and Principles.”
The letter recalled that during her first week at the AP, an editor had a meeting with her and “specifically spoke to you about the social media expectations of AP journalists.”
“It’s paramount that journalists working for The Associated Press cover the news impartially, do not have any conflicts that could be perceived as leading to bias in reporting and on social media refrain from sharing opinions or engaging in any activity that could compromise AP’s reputation for objectivity,” the letter said.
Wilder said that when she asked what posts violated the AP’s policies, she did not get an answer from either her editor or the letter.
She said she did not believe any of her social media posts were egregious enough for her to be singled out and fired and that the AP should have given her a warning instead of firing her immediately.
Several journalists on Friday criticized the AP’s decision to fire Wilder, noting the disproportionate backlash against peers who publicly hold pro-Palestinian views. Others were critical of firing journalists for their old college or high school tweets.
Journalists responded to news of Wilder’s firing with outrage and messages of solidarity. “I stand with Emily,” wrote Rebekah Sanders, an Arizona Republic reporter. “Her reporting at our newspaper was excellent. Reverse your decision NOW.”
In one post shared by the group, Wilder called Sheldon Adelson, the late billionaire GOP mega-donor and close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a “naked mole rat.” She also referred to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro as “a little turd” in a 2019 op-ed for the Stanford Daily.
The Twitter thread brought up her affiliations with Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as her participation in a 2017 “Return the Birthright” rally in New York.
Wilder said the Stanford College Republicans had “antagonized” her and her friends in the past over her activism in college, including a time she hosted a 2019 speech by Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley, an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
“They were holding on those screenshots for three years, I guess,” Wilder said. “They’re known for these kinds of cheap tactics and for their sole politics really being to disrupt other people’s lives.”
After the tweets went viral, Wilder said she was shaken and concerned, especially after receiving a barrage of online harassment.
“Any woman in journalism understands how violent and vile those messages can become very quickly,” she said.
However, she said an AP editor assured her in a phone call on Tuesday night that the organization was most concerned about the harassment she was facing and was going to take steps to address that.
Wilder said the editor told her that she would not face repercussions for her old posts and activism she was involved with in college before becoming a journalist.
During that call, she said, the editor also suggested that she should remove “Black Lives Matter” from her Twitter bio, which she did at the time.
The next day, however, things “really escalated” after her old posts were amplified by several conservative news outlets, including Fox News, and by Republican lawmakers like Sen. Tom Cotton.
In one article, the Washington Free Beacon wrote that Wilder’s hire “could fuel concerns about the AP’s objectivity amid revelations that the news outlet shared an office building with Hamas military intelligence in Gaza.”
The AP has said Israel’s army had not provided any evidence so far to support its decision to bomb the building that housed the AP’s Gaza bureau and other international media organizations.
Amid the recent surge of violence in the region, leading to more than 200 Palestinians being killed in Israeli airstrikes, Wilder said she retweeted articles about the AP building being bombed by the Israeli military and about the death toll in Gaza.
She also wrote a tweet questioning the language media outlets used while writing about Israel and Palestinian territories and how one side always gets “policed and censored.”
In a statement posted on Twitter Saturday, Wilder said her firing is “heartbreaking as a young journalist so hungry to learn from the fearless investigative reporting of AP journalists.”
“It’s terrifying as a young woman who was hung out to dry when I needed support from my institution most. And it’s enraging as a Jewish person — who grew up in a Jewish community, attended Orthodox schooling and devoted my college years to studying Palestine and Israel — that I could be defamed as antisemitic and thrown under the bus in the process,” she wrote.
“While the last few days have been overwhelming, I will not be intimidated into silence,” Wilder added. “I will be back soon.”