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New York Times Publisher Decries ‘Lies’ About Abramson Firing

DLD Conference 2011
Miguel Villagran—Getty Images Arthur Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of The New York Times, looks on during the Digital Life Design (DLD) conference

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. speaks out about the firing of his former editor Jill Abramson from the New York Times

New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. vigorously pushed back against reports that former executive editor Jill Abramson was fired because she made less than her male predecessors and was unhappy about it, making his most extensive comments since her dismissal rocked the media last week.

This is not a place that penalizes women,” Sulzberger said of the Times, in an interview published by Vanity Fair on Tuesday. “I’m not going to let lies like this lie,” he said.

Here some key quotes from Sulzberger’s interview:

When responding to criticism that the Times management didn’t fully address Abramson’s contributions to the paper in its statement about her dismissal, Sulzberger said, “We originally drafted the whole thing to be very amicable… [but] Jill said no.” He continued, “It wasn’t as though we went out to hurt her. We didn’t. . . . It was my hope for Jill that we could make this go away as peacefully as possible.”

Sulzberger said that “there is no truth to the charge” that Abramson was paid less than her male predecessors. Although the Times wouldn’t disclose employee salaries, he said that while her “salary was a decreasing percentage of her overall compensation,” her bonus boosted her overall pay to 10% more than former executive editor Bill Keller received in 2010.

The publisher said that if given his 2011 choice again between promoting then-Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet or Abramson to become executive editor of the Times, “Of course I would have done it differently.”

Sulzberger said Abramson’s position was “no longer sustainable” because she tried to recruit The Guardian‘s U.S. editor-in-chief Janine Gibson (who had clashed with Baquet, an unnamed New York Times executive told Vanity Fair, when the two papers collaborated on stories surrounding documents leaked by Edward Snowden).

Abramson, Sulzberger said, had tried to recruit Gibson to the Times in a position equal to Baquet’s without informing him. “When Janine told Dean that she’d been offered the job of co-managing editor, he didn’t have a clue,” Salzburger said. “At that point, we risked losing Dean, and we risked losing more than Dean. It would have been a flood, and a flood of some of our best digital people.”

Apart from an Instagram showing her newfound interest in boxing, Abramson’s first public response to getting ousted from the Times came during a commencement speech at Wake Forest on Monday.

“Losing a job you love hurts,” Abramson told graduates. “Some of you, and now I’m talking to anyone who’s been dumped, not getting the job you really wanted, or gotten those rejection letters from grad schools, you know the sting of losing, or not getting something you really want. When that happens, show what you are made of.”

[Vanity Fair]

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