A managing editor for the Associated Press (the AP) has defended the news wire’s decision to let go of its recently hired news associate Emily Wilder, saying that her activity on social media put the outlet’s credibility “at stake.”
“It’s really important that we maintain our credibility on these stories, and journalist safety is at stake and the AP’s credibility is at stake,” AP managing editor Brian Carovillano told CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday.
The firing of Wilder on May 19 came as the violence between Hamas—a designated terrorist group since 1997—and Israel intensified last month.
Wilder, 22, was fired by the AP in a “unanimous decision” because “she had a series of social media posts that showed a clear bias toward one side and against another in one of the most divisive and difficult stories that we cover anywhere in the world,” said Carovillano.
She had served just two weeks on the job, and was dismissed less than 48 hours after the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) group called her out for some of her posts on social media. Before joining the AP as a news associate on May 3, Wilder was an active member of pro-Palestinian groups at Stanford University.
“The Associated Press’ anti-Israel bias should come as no surprise, as they are literally staffing their offices with hardened anti-Israel activists,” SCR wrote in a Facebook post, criticizing the outlet’s decision to hire Wilder.
“Our credibility is constantly under attack,” Carovillano told CNN. “Our social media guidelines exist to protect that credibility, because protecting our credibility is the same as protecting journalists.”
In a statement Saturday, Wilder said SCR “launched a smear campaign against me, attempting to ‘expose’ my already-public history of activism for Palestinian human rights at Stanford University.”
She added that she had been transparent about her previous activism with the AP editors “and they reassured me I would not face punishment… I was told my editors were only hoping to support me as I received an onslaught of sexist, antisemitic, racist and violent comments and messages.”
“Less than 48 hours later, the AP fired me,” Wilder said, noting that when she asked her managers which Twitter posts were in violation of the AP’s social media policy, they “refused to tell me.”
“In the end, rather than take whatever misstep I made as a teaching opportunity—as is the point of the news associate program—it appears they took it as an opportunity to make me a scapegoat,” she added.
Carovillano told CNN that Wilder’s dismissal was a “difficult decision.”
He added, “It was not an easy decision, and it was not a personal decision, and we wish her all the best.”
Over 150 AP staffers on Monday sent an open letter to the AP, criticizing its handling of Wilder’s firing.
“We strongly disapprove,” they wrote. “We demand more clarity from the company about why Wilder was fired. It remains unclear—to Wilder herself as well as staff at large—how she violated the social media policy while employed by the AP.”
“It gives us no confidence that any one of us couldn’t be next, sacrificed without explanation. It has left our colleagues—particularly emerging journalists—wondering how we treat our own, what culture we embrace and what values we truly espouse as a company,” the letter said.