A conservative New York Times columnist has suspended his own Twitter account after he retaliated against a media professor who compared him to “bedbugs” online.
In a tweet on Monday, George Washington University’s media and public affairs professor David Karpf sent out a tweet, joking about news that the New York Times building had been infected with bedbugs by calling conservative columnist Bret Stephens the real culprit.
The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens. https://t.co/k4qo6QzIBW
— davekarpf (@davekarpf) August 26, 2019
Stephens was so deeply unamused by the tweet — which, according to Karpf’s remarks to the Washington Post, only had nine likes and zero retweets at the time — he sent Karpf an email, copying his direct boss at George Washington University in on the message.
“I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they’ve never met — on Twitter. I think you’ve set a new standard,” Stephens wrote, according to a screenshot Karpf shared on Twitter. “I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part.”
Alright fine… here is the email: pic.twitter.com/A4E5I6CoB6
— davekarpf (@davekarpf) August 27, 2019
Karpf was primarily frustrated by Stephens efforts to get him in “trouble” at work.
“He not only thinks I should be ashamed of what I wrote, he thinks that I should also get in trouble for it,” Karpf told The Washington Post. “That’s an abuse of his power.”
During an appearance Tuesday morning on MSNBC, Stephens claimed he wasn’t trying to get Karpf in professional trouble, but wanted Karpf’s boss to see how his professor was interacting “with the rest of the world.”
“Using dehumanizing rhetoric like ‘bedbugs’ or analogizing people to insects, is always wrong, we can do better, we should be the people on social media that we are in real life,” he said. “There’s a bad history of being called– being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.”
Wow. A friend just sent this to me
Bret Stephens was asked about the Bedbug controversy on MSNBC by @ChrisJansing
Bret says he wasn’t trying to get @davekarpf in any professional trouble when he copied his provost on the email he sent him.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 27, 2019
The exchange quickly went viral and sparked outrage against the columnist who’s known for his climate change denials and for calling rape on college campuses an “imaginary enemy.”
Stephens tweeted on Tuesday that he was deactivating his Twitter account and confirmed the decision during his MSNBC appearance.
“Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens reportedly wrote on Twitter, according to Mediaite. “I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt. Thanks to all of my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”
The tweet and Stephens account are no longer available on Twitter. A New York Times spokesperson did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.