The Associated Press has fired a news associate, Emily Wilder, for violating the company’s social media policies, a move that drew backlash from journalists after it became clear that Wilder had been targeted by rightwing media outlets for her pro-Palestinian activism in college.
Wilder confirmed to the Guardian that she was “terminated for violating the company’s social media policies in their News Values and Principles sometime between my start date on May 3 and yesterday”. Wilder said the AP did not detail which of her tweets broke its policies.
A spokesperson for the AP said that while the organization “generally refrains from commenting on personnel matters, we can confirm Emily Wilder’s comments on Thursday that she was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP”.
“There’s no question I was just canceled,” Wilder told SFGate on Thursday. She said her editor had previously told her she would not “get in any trouble because everyone had opinions in college”, but “then came the rest of the week”.
Rightwing and conservative media outlets began publishing stories this week about Wilder, who had previously worked with the newspaper Arizona Republic after graduating from Stanford University, when the Stanford College Republicans tweeted a thread highlighting her previous activism.
The tweets included screengrabs of Wilder’s previous Facebook posts, in which she is critical of Zionists, including Sheldon Adelson – the late billionaire Trump supporter.
The thread took off. The rightwing Washington Free Beacon speculated that Wilder’s hire in Phoenix “could fuel concerns about the AP’s objectivity amid revelations that the news outlet shared an office building with Hamas military intelligence in Gaza”. The article was amplified by Tom Cotton, the far-right senator of Arkansas.
Although Israel’s military claimed that Hamas military intelligence were operating in the building housing the AP and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said he had seen no evidence indicating that was the case.
Fox News referred to Wilder’s hiring as a “second Middle East-related issue” for the AP after the organization’s offices were bombed.
Wilder, who is Jewish, had tweeted 18 times since she began working at AP. Most were retweets. Her most subjective post was about objectivity, on 16 May. “‘Objectivity’ feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim,” she wrote. “Using ‘Israel’ but never ‘Palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices – yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”
The News Media Guild, the union that represents the Associated Press’s editorial and technology staff members, said it was investigating Wilder’s firing. “The Guild asked if the comments that caused [Wilder’s] termination were posted before or after her hiring and awaits a response.”
Journalists responded to news of Wilder’s firing with outrage and messages of solidarity. “I stand with Emily,” wrote Rebekah Sanders, an Arizona Republic reporter. “Her reporting at our newspaper was excellent. Reverse your decision NOW.”
“I’d bet a lot of money this person is about to get a much better job,” tweeted NBC’s Ben Collins.
Several reporters drew contrasts between Wilder’s treatment and that of CNN’s Cris Cuomo, amid revelations that he advised his brother, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations, but did not face major disciplinary action.
Others pointed out that the Stanford College Republicans, who targeted Wilder, had a proclivity for inviting speakers known for their sexist and racist views. In 2019, the group invited the conservative author Andrew Klavan, to speak at an event titled “Yes, America is a Judeo-Christian Nation”.