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Teen Vogue’s new editor apologizes for past racist tweets after staff complaints: ‘There’s no excuse’

More than 20 staff members at Teen Vogue wrote a letter to executives at Condé Nast expressing concerns about the publication’s new editor, Alexi McCammond. (Photographer Lev Radin/Sipa USA/AP)
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On Friday, Condé Nast named political reporter Alexi McCammond as Teen Vogue’s new editor in chief. By Monday, some of the digital publication’s staff members raised concerns about her hiring.

In a statement widely shared on Twitter, more than 20 Teen Vogue staff members pointed to anti-Asian “racist and homophobic tweets” McCammond posted in 2011 that resurfaced over the weekend, noting they were especially concerned given the recent spate of violence against Asian Americans.

“We’ve built our outlet’s reputation as a voice for justice and change — we take immense pride in our work and in creating an inclusive environment,” the statement said. “In a moment of historically high anti-Asian violence and amid the on-going struggles of the LGBTQ community, we as the staff of Teen Vogue fully reject those sentiments.”

McCammond, 27, apologized to staff members in a Monday email shared with The Washington Post. “I apologize deeply to all of you for the pain this has caused,” she wrote. “There’s no excuse for language like that.”

The controversy is the latest incident of turmoil for Condé Nast, where claims of racism and discrimination last year led the top editor at Bon Appétit to resign and a number of stars of the hit Test Kitchen video series to quit in protest.

It also caps a month of turbulence for McCammond, who previously covered the Joe Biden campaign for Axios and whose relationship with a senior Biden administration press official, TJ Ducklo, recently became public. Ducklo resigned last month after reportedly threatening a Politico reporter who asked him about his relationship with McCammond. An Axios spokeswoman told People magazine that McCammond disclosed her relationship with Ducklo to editors in November and was reassigned to cover Vice President Harris and liberal politics.

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McCammond was announced last week as the new top editor at Teen Vogue, a publication that grew its political coverage in the Donald Trump era with a young, liberal tilt.

But over the weekend, her 2011 tweets resurfaced in an Instagram post from Diana Tsui, an editorial director at the Infatuation and former editor at New York Magazine’s the Cut. Tsui questioned whether McCammond, who is Black, truly “embodies” Teen Vogue’s values of “inclusiveness and empowerment.”

“Time and time again this shows that gatekeepers pay lip service to diversity,” she wrote. “They don’t believe that anti-racism policies can and should include Asian Americans.”

The post highlighted screenshots of McCammond’s old tweets, which included racist comments about Asian people including one about “googling how to not wake up with swollen, asian eyes” and another deriding a college teaching assistant as a “stupid asian.”

Tsui noted that McCammond apologized in November 2019, when the tweets were first highlighted, but criticized McCammond for calling the posts “insensitive” rather than “racist.”

Tsui’s Instagram post went viral and spread to an even wider audience when Diet Prada, an account that acts as a watchdog for the fashion industry, reposted it.

On Monday, some Teen Vogue staffers sent a letter to Condé Nast management and publicly condemned their future editor’s actions. Later that day, they gathered for a virtual meeting with McCammond, where staff members shared their concerns, according to an employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Following the discussion, McCammond sent an email apologizing for her actions.

“You’ve seen some offensive, idiotic tweets from when I was a teenager that perpetuated harmful and racist stereotypes about Asian Americans,” she wrote.

“Those tweets aren’t who I am, but I understand that I have lost some of your trust, and will work doubly hard to earn it back. I want you to know I am committed to amplifying AAPI voices across our platforms, and building upon the groundbreaking, inclusive work this title is known for the world over,” she added, using a term that stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Hours after the meeting, several staffers posted a public statement on Twitter addressing McCammond’s tweets.

“We’ve heard the concerns of our readers, and we stand with you,” the statement said. “We are hopeful that an internal conversation will prove fruitful in maintaining the integrity granted to us by our audience.”

The staff noted that the tweets resurfaced as hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise. In California, in particular, there has been a surge in attacks against Asian American seniors.

Covid fueled anti-Asian racism. Now elderly Asian Americans are being attacked.

Some staffers have also expressed concerns about McCammond’s age and lack of editing experience, the Daily Beast reported. But the publication has a history of hiring young editors. At 23, Phillip Picardi headed up the magazine’s website. By 26, he was named chief content officer and the successor to its former editor in chief Elaine Welteroth. Lindsay Peoples Wagner was 28 when she was named editor in chief in 2018.

Over the past year, Condé Nast has been confronted over the institution’s lack of diversity and treatment of employees of color. In June, Bon Appétit magazine’s top editor, Adam Rapoport, resigned after old images appeared to show him in a racist costume. Around the same time, stars of Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen video series said people of color were not getting paid for their appearances as opposed to their White colleagues. Most of the video stars left the publication two months later.

Also in June, Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s artistic director, apologized and took responsibility for publishing “hurtful or intolerable” content in Vogue and excluding Black voices. More recently, the New Yorker’s union, which is negotiating a contract with the company, has posted testimonials on Twitter from employees of color about being paid less than White colleagues.

In a statement to the Daily Beast on Monday, a Condé Nast spokesman stood by their decision to hire McCammond and said the company chose her for the job because of the “values, inclusivity and depth she has displayed through her journalism.”

“Throughout her career she has dedicated herself to being a champion for marginalized voices,” the statement said. “Two years ago she took responsibility for her social media history and apologized.”

Jim VandeHei, the co-founder and chief executive of Axios, also came to McCammond’s defense on Twitter. VandeHei said that during nearly four years of working with McCammond, she showed her “true character” as a hard worker and advocate for “ALL individuals & groups.” He added that she “apologized long ago” and grew from the experience.

VandeHei also responded to comments equating McCammond’s experience to “cancel culture.”

“I think way too many people are losing their minds,” he wrote. “We are crucifying people for one sin, old sins, debatable sins.”