NYTimes Peru N-Word, Part Two: What Happened January 28?

Donald G. McNeil Jr.
18 min readMar 1, 2021

At 11:17 A.M. on January 28, I got an email from the Daily Beast. It was from Lachlan Cartwright, and said:

Hi Donald,

The Daily Beast is preparing to publish a story about you, and we wanted to give you an opportunity to comment.

We will report:

**Following a 2019 “student journeys” trip to Peru hosted by the New York Times in conjunction with Putney Student Travel, a number of students and their parents complained that you made wildly offensive and racist comments.

**Several students complained that you also used the n-word, questioned the notion of white privilege, and argued that blackface was not offensive.

**The NYT was aware of this in 2019 and some staff were “disturbed” by your behavior and discussed how to handle the potential fallout.

**The NYT investigated the matter and took disciplinary action against you and communicated as much with parents of children who had been on the trip.

If you wish to comment we would prefer responses in writing and on record. If you would like to talk over the phone you can reach me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Deadline for comment is 3pm ET Thursday January 28th.

Cheers, Lachlan

I was busy working on a Covid-19 story and didn’t even notice it. At the time, I was getting more than 500 emails a day, mostly about the virus, and I often didn’t read some until 4 A.M.

But soon my boss, Celia Dugger, the Science editor, was calling. “Did you see the email from the Daily Beast?”

“No. What email?”

I called it up and read it quickly.

“Oh, god,” I said. “Seriously? Peru again?”

“We’ve got to answer it. Charlotte wants you to get on the phone with her.”

“Why? Why don’t we just tell them to fuck off? See what they print and I can answer it.”

“No, we have to answer them today. Can you talk to Charlotte now?”

“Why do we have to bend to their demand for 3 o’clock? Why are we letting them push us around? Tell them no. I’m busy. Tell them to hold the story and we’ll respond when we’re ready.”

“No, they want to respond now. Let me get Charlotte on the phone and I’ll conference you in.”

Donald G. McNeil Jr.

New York Times, 1976–2021. Last beat: lead Covid reporter. 2020 Chancellor Award; 2021 NYT team Pulitzer donaldgmcneiljr1954@gmail.com