The roughly 1,200-word op-ed that appeared on the Boston Globe’s website Wednesday began with the author looking back on one of his “biggest regrets” in life — “not pissing in Bill Kristol’s salmon.”
“I was waiting on the disgraced neoconservative pundit and chief Iraq War cheerleader about 10 years ago at a restaurant in Cambridge and to my eternal dismay, some combination of professionalism and pusillanimity prevented me from appropriately seasoning his entree,” wrote Luke O’Neil, a Boston-based freelance journalist and regular contributor to the Globe’s opinions section. (O’Neil has also contributed to The Washington Post.)
By Thursday evening, amid fierce backlash from critics who decried its contents as “hateful, divisive, counter-productive rhetoric,” the Globe first revised the piece and then took the unusual step of pulling it entirely.
Rather than quell the outrage, though, the decision incensed others, including O’Neil, who slammed the publication’s integrity. The Globe did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Thursday.
As O’Neil wrote in the column posted Wednesday morning, his trip down memory lane to the Kristol meal was triggered by the recent resignation of former homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Nielsen was one of several top Trump cabinet officials who had been forced out of restaurants and movie theaters over their ties to the current administration’s controversial policies, and O’Neil argued that the trend should continue.
Watching people such as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) get “shown the door,” O’Neil wrote, was “one of the only times it seemed like any of the architects of this ruinous xenophobic pre-pogrom might be forced to contend, however briefly, with the consequences of their policy decisions.” (In her position, Nielsen was the public face of the Trump administration’s family separation policy.)
The final lines of the column, which bore the headline, “Keep Kirstjen Nielsen unemployed and eating Grubhub over her kitchen sink,” appeared to take things a step further. “As for the waiters out there, I’m not saying you should tamper with anyone’s food, as that could get you into trouble,” O’Neil wrote. “You might lose your serving job. But you’d be serving America. And you won’t have any regrets years later.”
Conservative voices swiftly hit back at O’Neil and the Globe.
“This is a disgusting, hateful opinion piece,” Eddie Zipperer, a Daily Caller opinion contributor, tweeted, adding that the Globe “sucks for publishing it.”
“So the @BostonGlobe is now publishing left-wing losers who advocate violence against Republicans?” asked Boston-based radio host Howie Carr.
In response, the Globe edited O’Neil’s column and took out the lines directed at waiters, Mediaite reported on Thursday. An editor’s note added to the top of the article said, “A version of this column as originally published did not meet Globe standards and has been changed. The Globe regrets the previous tone of the piece,” according to Mediaite.
Twitter users also pointed out that O’Neil’s opening sentence had been changed. The new line read: “One of the biggest regrets of my life is not defiling Bill Kristol’s salmon.”
“I really like the lead,” O’Neil told The Post in an interview late Thursday night. “I think it’s a really good lead. . . . It’s evocative.”
But he said the point of his column wasn’t to encourage people to actually do that.
“I wasn’t really advocating to piss in somebody’s food, that’s crazy,” said O’Neil, who had been writing weekly columns for the Globe. “But I do think these people should be made uncomfortable in public. I don’t think that’s a . . . radical idea.”
O’Neil said he wrote the article in his usual “tongue-in-cheek style” with the intention of arguing that people could “moderately inconvenience” the lives of those who “carry out policies of ethnic cleansing and family separation and stealing babies and putting babies in cages and losing children across the country.”
“That apparently was beyond the pale,” he said.
After the article was edited, a note to readers appeared at the top of the Globe’s opinions page explaining the decision to remove O’Neil’s piece altogether. The column, the note said, “did not receive sufficient editorial oversight and did not meet Globe standards. The Globe regrets its lack of vigilance on the matter. O’Neil is not on staff.”
Though he said he’s received death threats over the column, O’Neil had a different response to critics.
“I do not apologize for it personally whatsoever,” he said.
On social media, a number of people backed O’Neil’s piece, including some other journalists at the Globe.
Shirley Leung, the newspaper’s interim editorial page editor, shared the article to Twitter on Wednesday.
“I have no idea how this op-ed got past our editors..." tweeted Globe film critic Ty Burr, “but honestly, the vein-popping apoplexy on the part of the commentariat is a beautiful thing to see.”
Others lambasted the publication for removing the piece.
O’Neil had equally harsh words for the Globe.
“They completely cut my throat on this,” he told The Post. “I will never write for them again.”
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