- David Karpf, a professor at George Washington University, posted a tweet calling conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens a bedbug after news broke that The Times’ newsroom had become infested with the insects.
- Stephens took offense to the joke, which only had nine likes at the time, and emailed the professor and his provost.
- Karpf posted the email, which prompted a wave and backlash that eventually pushed Stephens to deactivate his Twitter account.
After news broke Monday about a bedbug infestation at The New York Times’ newsroom, a college professor took to social media to make a joke about one of the papers’ columnists.
“The bedbugs are a metaphor,” wrote David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. “The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
Stephens, a Times conservative writer, was not tagged directly in the tweet, which initially only picked up nine likes and no retweets. However, the post still managed to catch Stephens’ attention.
A few hours after posting the tweet Monday, Karpf was surprised with an email from the writer — an email that was also sent to Karpf’s provost at the university.
“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.
“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.”
“I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say. Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself.”
Karpf eventually tweeted out the email, leading to waves of backlash against Stephens and of course more attention to the initial bedbug tweet.
Stephens Faces Backlash
After reading the email, many people were angry that Stephens copied Karpf’s superior on the email, saying he was likely hoping to get the professor fired.
Others were critical of him for reacting so poorly to the comment, as someone who has long been vocal about protecting free speech. Of course, many others threw out their best jokes, knowing now how much it would bother him. By Tuesday morning, both #Bretbug and “Bret Stephens” were trending topics on Twitter.
Stephens, who joined the Times in 2017 and is also an MSNBC contributor, is not unfamiliar with backlash. In fact, his takes on climate change and race have already prompted outrage from readers in the past, with many canceling subscriptions over his pieces. He has also been known to hit back at critics, which he did once before in an email exchange with a Deadspin writer.
But the outrage over his reaction to a seemingly minuscule tweet prompted the writer to deactivate his entire Twitter account. “Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens tweeted before closing his account.
“I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt.
Karpf Speaks Out
In an interview with The Washington Post, Karpf complained about the columnist’s decision to email his superior. “He not only thinks I should be ashamed of what I wrote, he thinks that I should also get in trouble for it,” Karpf said. “That’s an abuse of his power.”
Karpf told the Post that he would have been willing to take Stephens up on his offer to chat in person had he not included his boss on the email.
“You need to work very hard to find a tweet that obscure, and then work harder to find the writer’s email and their provost’s email to CC them, too,” he said. “I would have treated this as an opportunity for conversation and dialogue if he hadn’t CC’d my provost, which was clearly an attempt to threaten me with punishment.”
“I’d be happy to have a dialogue, not just about the tenor of Twitter comments but also about power and how to appropriately use it,” he added. “But I assume he won’t want to talk. He ought to be embarrassed.”
As far as why he’s not a fan of Stephens’ work, Karpf said, “He tends to write pretty lightweight, poorly researched columns about things that I know something about. So I’ve always seen him as this person that everyone complains about but we just can’t get rid of. He’s a bedbug.”
Stephens Addresses the Issue on MSNBC
Meanwhile, Stephens told the Post that his email “speaks for itself.” He later went on MSNBC Tuesday morning to say he had no intention of getting Karpf in professional trouble, but he said institutions should be aware of how their staff members interact with “the rest of the world.”
When addressing the bedbug insult he said, “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.”
“There’s a bad history of being called…of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (Fox News)
Privacy Concerns Rise in Florida Over Menstruation Questions on Digital Student-Athlete Physicals
Ever since the overturn of Roe V. Wade, activists have been concerned about how period tracking data can be used against women.
Outrage and Concerns
Florida schools require student-athletes to complete an annual physical evaluation form before being allowed to participate in sports, including questions about female menstruation. Recently, school districts have shifted these forms into a digital format using a third party, causing privacy concerns for parents and activists alike.
As headlines started to circulate the news, many online began expressing outrage. Lawyer Pam Keith, who ran for U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 referred to Florida as a “police state for women” on Tuesday morning. Other tweets have called this practice “dystopian” and “tramping on women’s rights.”
In Florida, these questions have been on the student-athlete physical evaluation form for approximately 20 years. Now that some school districts have shifted from paper copies to digital formatting with the third-party software company, Aktivate, criticisms have resurfaced across the state. Abortion rights activists, in particular, are worried about menstrual information being used to prosecute someone for getting an abortion. Others vocally oppose storing this information online, citing parents’ rights over their children’s data.
These questions relating to menstruation are labeled as optional on the document. However, some have expressed concern that athletes will feel obligated to answer them in order to ensure their eligibility to play.
Florida schools have all of the medical data collected by these physicals sent back to the district from the physician. This is in sharp contrast to the policy of other states that simply require the physician’s approval for the athlete to be cleared to play.
“I don’t see why school districts need that access to that type of information,” pediatrician Dr. Michael Haller said to The Florida Times-Union. “It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid.”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (The Palm Beach Post) (The Florida Times-Union)
Navy SEAL Recruits Sprayed With Tear Gas in “Horrific” Leaked Video
The revelation comes after the Navy launched an investigation into SEAL training practices last month in response to the death of a recruit.
The Worst Birthday Ever
In September 2021, Navy SEAL recruits were forced to sing “happy birthday” while standing amid a thick cloud of tear gas as part of their training, a leaked video reveals.
The footage, which was obtained by investigative reporter Mathew Cole and published by CBS News, comes from California’s San Clemente Island, where SEALs are trained.
For over a minute, instructors are seen dousing the recruits in the chemical, sometimes from just inches away, as they struggle to sing. Reports say they were singing so that they could not hold their breath, which regulations incidentally warn may cause a person to pass out.
Although exposure to tear gas is a common right of passage for military recruits, who must learn how to properly don a face mask, it is meant to be sprayed from six feet away to prevent burns and last for no longer than 15 seconds.
The recruits in the video are seen coughing, heaving, and crying out in agony after the gas subsides, and one appears to pass out.
A Navy admiral has reportedly launched an investigation into the video to determine whether the instructors sprayed the gas for too long and from too close, and if they did, whether they were simply unaware of the proper procedure or intended to abuse and punish the recruits, which could be a criminal offense.
Cole wrote in a Twitter thread that he showed the footage to current and retired senior SEAL officers, who described the exercise as “horrific,” “abusive,” “pointless” and “near torture.”
“Current and former SEAL students say they were told the purpose of the exercise, which cause extreme pain, was to simulate how they would react to bullet wounds in combat,” he said. “They were told by BUD/S instructors it was a ‘rite of passage’ and given three attempts to complete it.”
The Death of Kyle Mullen
“The source who provided the video did so because they wanted the Navy, Congress and the public to know that the February 2022 death of Kyle Mullen was not an isolated incident,” Cole Continued.
Mullen was a 24-year-old Navy recruit who arrived in California for the SEALs rigorous selection course in January. In his third week, he reached what’s known as Hell Week, a five-day-long slog through an infamously brutal training regiment that’s killed at least 11 men since 1953.
Trainees spend at least 20 hours per day doing physical exercises, running a total of more than 200 miles, and are allowed just four hours of sleep across the entire week.
Hell Week is meant to test a recruit’s mental and physical resilience, as well as their commitment to becoming a Navy SEAL. Critics, however, argue it is excessively harsh, pointing to the concussions, broken bones, dangerous infections, and near drownings suffered by some recruits.
When Mullen completed Hell Week, he called his mother Regina, who told CBS News her son seemed to be having trouble breathing.
A few hours later, he died with the official cause being pneumonia, which Regina attributed to the freezing water he was submerged in during training.
She also said he admitted to using banned performance-enhancing drugs, something many aspiring SEALs resort to so they can cross the finish line.
Even with drugs, however, around 90% of trainees fail to complete the selection course, with most dropping out during Hell Week.
The same day Kyle died, one of his fellow trainees had to be intubated, and two more were hospitalized.
The Navy launched an investigation into the SEALs selection course last month in response to Kyle’s death.
See what others are saying: (CBS) (NBC) (The New York Times)
Lawyer Claims That LAPD Officer Who Died In Training Was Targeted For Investigating Other Officers For Rape
The late officer’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.
Press Conference Reveals New Allegations
A lawyer for the family of Los Angeles Police officer Houston Tipping, who died in May during a training exercise, claimed on Monday that Tipping was targeted for reporting an alleged sexual assault by four other police officers last year.
In May, Tipping sustained serious injury — including a broken spine — during training, which resulted in his death three days later. The LAPD released a statement saying his injuries came from a fall taken during a segment of training that involved grappling another officer.
His family, however, filed a complaint — and later a lawsuit — against the city of Los Angeles. The lawsuit states that Tipping was, “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled.”
During a Monday press conference, his family’s lawyer, Bradley Gage, claimed that the injuries Tipping sustained could not have been the result of grappling.
“There is no way grappling would have caused those kinds of injuries the way the LAPD portrays it,” he said. “What would cause those injuries is if somebody picked a person up, slams them down onto their head and their neck onto a hard surface.”
An Alleged Cover-Up
According to Gage, an officer that Tipping had reported last year for an alleged sexual assault was also present at this training exercise.
“The allegation is that in July of 2021, four police officers were involved in the sexual assault of a woman from the Los Angeles area. A report was taken by Officer Tipping,” he said. “And the female victim claimed that she was raped by four different people, all LAPD officers. She knew the names of some of those officers because they were in uniform and had their name tags on. The name of one of those officers, with the name tag, seems to correlate with the names of one of the officers that was at the bicycle training”
The attorney went on to confirm that he is alleging this unnamed officer is responsible for Tipping’s injuries.
Later in the press conference, Gage stated that the police department is likely trying to cover-up these misdeeds.
“I’m sure that these actions are being covered-up. The thought of a code of silence or a cover-up by a police department should not be shocking or surprising to anyone,” he said.
Although the initial lawsuit by Tipping’s family included the wrongful death and other civil rights violations, with this new information, the family and the attorney has decided to file a supplemental. This supplemental will cover the whistler blower retaliation, destruction of evidence, and the initial wrongdoing of the rape case.