Updated: March 19, 2021 1:47:56 pm
(Written by Katie Robertson)
Alexi McCammond, who made her name as a politics reporter at the Washington news site Axios, had planned to start as the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue next Wednesday. Now, after Teen Vogue staff members publicly condemned racist and homophobic tweets McCammond had posted a decade ago, she has resigned from the job.
Condé Nast, Teen Vogue’s publisher, announced the abrupt turn on Thursday in an internal email that was sent amid pressure from the publication’s staff, readers and at least two advertisers, just two weeks after the company had appointed her to the position.
“After speaking with Alexi this morning, we agreed that it was best to part ways, so as to not overshadow the important work happening at Teen Vogue,” Stan Duncan, the chief people officer at Condé Nast, said in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times.
In a statement included in the email, McCammond said her “past tweets have overshadowed the work I’ve done to highlight the people and issues that I care about.”
“I wish the talented team at Teen Vogue the absolute best moving forward,” she said.
McCammond, 27, established herself as a prominent political reporter last year. She covered President Joe Biden’s campaign for Axios and was a contributor to MSNBC and NBC. In 2019, she was named the emerging journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists. She would have been the third Black woman to serve as Teen Vogue’s top editor, after Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Elaine Welteroth.
Her job status became shaky days after Condé Nast named her to the position, when the offensive tweets she had posted as a teenager in 2011 resurfaced. They included comments on the appearance of Asian features, derogatory stereotypes about Asians and slurs for gay people. McCammond had apologized for the tweets in 2019 and deleted them. Screenshots of the tweets were recirculated on social media after her hiring at Teen Vogue was announced on March 5.
Within days, more than 20 staff members at Teen Vogue posted a note on social media saying they had made a complaint to company leaders about the tweets, and McCammond apologized for them again both publicly and in meetings with Condé Nast staff. “I’ve apologized for my past racist and homophobic tweets and will reiterate that there’s no excuse for perpetuating those awful stereotypes in any way,” she wrote in a March 10 letter posted on her Twitter account. “I am so sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language.”
As the criticism of her hiring mounted, Ulta Beauty and Burt’s Bees, major advertisers with Teen Vogue, suspended their campaigns with the publication.
The scrutiny of her tweets has come at a time of heightened concern about violence and harassment directed against Asian Americans. On Wednesday, after eight people were killed in shootings in Atlanta, including six women of Asian descent, Condé Nast’s chief executive, Roger Lynch, sent a memo to the company’s staff that said 1 in 10 of its employees identified as Asian.
“Our teams, our families and our friends have all been affected by the rise in hate crimes toward Asian people and it’s unacceptable,” Lynch wrote in the memo, which was reviewed by The Times.
McCammond had been vetted before Condé Nast hired her, and top executives including Lynch and Anna Wintour, the chief content officer and the global editorial director of Vogue, were aware of the decade-old racist tweets, Duncan said in his note on Thursday, and McCammond acknowledged them in interviews with the company.
Wintour discussed the tweets with leaders of color at Condé Nast before the job was offered, according to a company executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel issue. McCammond struck Condé Nast leaders as an impressive candidate, the executive said, and they felt her 2019 apology showed that she had learned from her mistakes.
Although the company was aware of the racist tweets, it did not know about the homophobic tweets or a photo, also from 2011, that was recently published by a right-wing website showing her in Native American costume at a Halloween party, the executive said. The vetting process did not turn up the additional material because it had been deleted, the executive added.
Condé Nast has reckoned with complaints of racism in its workplace and content over the past year. In June, amid the Black Lives Matter protests, Wintour sent a note to the Vogue staff, writing that, under her leadership, the magazine had not given enough space to “Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators” and acknowledging that it had published “images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant.”
Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of another Condé Nast publication, Bon Appétit, resigned in June after a photo of him resurfaced on social media, drawing condemnations from the staff for an offensive depiction of Puerto Ricans.
In the last two weeks, as complaints mounted, Wintour tried to build support for the would-be Teen Vogue editor. McCammond also participated in meetings with Condé Nast staff members and other groups to apologize further and listen to their concerns, including one-on-one talks with journalists at Teen Vogue, according to six people with knowledge of the meetings.
Condé Nast’s human resources department also met with the Teen Vogue staff, three of the people said. The publication’s employees were reminded of a company policy requiring them to check with the communications team before making public statements. The staff members were also told they should keep their criticisms “in the family,” and they were left feeling they had little guidance on how to interact with their readers, one of the people said. The Condé Nast executive who shared details of the process that went into McCammond’s hiring disputed that characterization of the meeting.
It became clear that her job was in jeopardy on Monday, when Wintour abruptly canceled a meeting scheduled for Wednesday for top Condé Nast editors, McCammond and the new editor-in-chief of Vogue China, Margaret Zhang, according to two people with knowledge of the plan. The cancellation was accompanied by a note saying the meeting would not be rescheduled.
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