The online publication Slate has suspended a well-known podcast host, as he debated with colleagues over whether people who are not Black should be able to cite a racial slur in some contexts.
Mike Pesca, host of “The Dist”, a podcast on news and culture, said in an interview that he was suspended indefinitely on Monday after defending the use of abuses in certain contexts. He made his argument during a conversation with colleagues on the interoffice messaging platform Slack last week.
In a long thread of messages, Slate staff members were discussing the resignation Donald G. McNeil Jr., A reporter who said this month that he was resigning from The New York Times after using slur during a discussion of racism while working as a guide on student travel in 2019.
According to screen shots of the Slack conversation shared with The Times, Mr. Pesca, who is white, said it contained references in which slur could be used. Slate chief executive Dan Chek stepped in to close the discussion.
Slate spokesman Katie Rayford confirmed that “The Gist” had been suspended indefinitely, pending an investigation, but would not comment on Mr. Pesca. “While I cannot go into specific allegations that are under investigation,” Ms. Rayford said, “I can confirm that this was not a decision around making a separate abstract argument in a dull channel.”
In November 2019, Slate introduced a policy in which podcast hosts and producers had to discuss the use of racist words in a pending episode or in excerpted content before recording.
Mr. Pesca explores an argument about the use of slur in the 2019 podcast about a black security guard who was fired for using it. In a recording of the episode, Mr. Pesca said, he used the term to quote the man, but asked his producer to make a version without the word. After consulting with his producers and his supervisor, who objected to his quote from Slur, he decided to go with the version without it, he said.
“The version of the offensively worded story never aired and I think the editorial process should move forward,” Mr. Pesca said in the interview.
Mr. Pesca said that no action was taken against him after an investigation into human resources. He said that he had apologized to the producers involved.
Mr. Pesca stated that Mr. Chack, Chief Executive Officer, and Slate’s Chief Editor, Jared Holst, offered a previous example of quoting Slur when speaking with him after the Slack conversation. He said that he had mentioned another example of using the term which he did not remember.
Mr Peska, whose interview style embodied Slate’s conflicting brand at times, said he was told on Friday that he would be suspended for a week without pay. On Monday he was informed that the suspension is indefinite, he said.
Mr. Pesca, who has worked on Slate for seven years, said he was “heartbroken” to hurt his teammates, but added, “I hate the idea of things that are beyond debate and things that Can not be said.
Jacob Weisberg, Former Slate president and editor-in-chief, who left the company for podcast start-up Pushkin in 2018, calling Mr. Pesca “a journalist with a huge talent and an unbiased mind”.
“I don’t think they did anything that is a virtue of discipline or consequence, and I think it’s an example of a kind of redundancy and lack of judgment and perspective that is unfortunately spreading,” Mr. Weisberg said.
Joel Anderson, a Black staff member of Slate who hosted the third season of the podcast “Slow Burn”, disagreed. He said, “For black employees, it’s a very small question to not listen to that particular abuse and not argue about whether it’s okay for white employees to use that particular slur,” said.