Cancelled Slate Podcaster “Heartsick” That Ideas Cannot Be Debated and Words Cannot Be Spoken

(p. B5) The online publication Slate has suspended a well-known podcast host after he debated with colleagues over whether people who are not Black should be able to quote a racial slur in some contexts.

. . .

Mr. Pesca explored the argument over the use of the slur in a 2019 podcast about a Black security guard who was fired for using it. In one recording of the episode, Mr. Pesca said, he used the term while quoting the man, but asked his producer to make a version without the term. After consultation with his producers and his supervisor, who objected to his quotation of the slur, they decided to go with the version without it, he said.

“The version of the story with the offensive word never aired, and this is how I think the editorial process should go,” Mr. Pesca said in the interview.

No action was taken against him after a human resources investigation into his quotation of the slur, Mr. Pesca said. He said he had apologized to the producers involved.

. . .

Mr. Pesca, who has worked at Slate for seven years, said he was “heartsick” over hurting his colleagues but added, “I hate the idea of things that are beyond debate and things that cannot be said.”

Jacob Weisberg, Slate’s former chairman and editor in chief, who left the company for the podcast start-up Pushkin in 2018, called Mr. Pesca “a huge talent and a fair-minded journalist.”

“I don’t think he did anything that merits discipline or consequences, and I think it’s an example of a kind of overreaction and a lack of judgment and perspective that is unfortunately spreading,” Mr. Weisberg said.

For the full story, see:

Katie Robertson and Ben Smith. “Podcast Host Suspended After Debate Over Slur.” The New York Times (Weds., February 24, 2021): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 22, 2021, and has the title “Slate Suspends Podcast Host After Debate Over Racial Slur.”)

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