us on Facebook
/ February 17, 2011
An Interview With (Now Former) NYU Fellow Nir Rosen

Yesterday, Nir Rosen, a fellow at NYU’s Center on Law and Security, resigned his position after making a series of offensive tweets that suggested that Lara Logan, a CBS correspondent who was beaten and sexually assaulted while covering the Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square, did not deserve sympathy because of her past pro-war stance.

His tweets caused a media firestorm, and he has since apologized profusely. But, as you’ll see in this exclusive interview with NYU Local, Rosen is unhappy about the reaction to his tweets, which he calls “sanctimonious and silly.” He also has some controversial words about the Lara Logan story and why it made the news in the first place.

What would you like to say to the NYU community?

I’d like to apologize to the NYU community and say that I regret my departure. I enjoyed my time at NYU and the welcoming and stimulating environment I found there.

You were defiant on twitter last night after your first two tweets got a huge response, but then apologized profusely this morning. Why the change of heart?

I was defiant at first because I didn’t think anybody could possibly take a few dumb jokes between friends seriously. I also had not yet realized the severity of the attack, so I thought it was just one more celebrity journalist trying to get attention for themselves. I apologized in the morning because I’m in the Middle East so I woke up and found that a mob had been unleashed at me and while some people were genuinely offended and thought I was serious, others in the right took advantage of the opportunity to destroy a voice from the left. I hoped to make it clear that I wasn’t serious.

Why were you compelled to resign from NYU so quickly? Were you asked to step down?

US academic establishments are already under attack from the right, and my Center at NYU stood to be harmed by the pack of dogs sent to take me down, and I did not want to harm a very important center or the work of people I greatly admire.

Did you receive any form of official university response or reprimand regarding your comments?

I did not receive any official reprimand.

Do you think your tweets have been unfairly attacked or blown out of proportion?

I think certainly my tweets have been unfairly attacked and blown out of proportion. That does not excuse my lapse of judgment for making them in the first place. I stupidly didn’t think that some crude banter would become fodder for thousands and I was not aware of the right wing attack machine waiting to take me down, nor did I realize, even though I was criticizing the celebrity culture in the media, what happens if you mock one of those celebrities, especially if you do it in such an offensive way as I did.

That said, I find the reactions sanctimonious and silly. A few crude jokes on twitter do not make a philosophy, they just make you a momentary jerk. I didn’t mean it and I have a record of eight years of risking my life for justice to prove my values. Had I been a right-wing writer I doubt this would have happened to me. That said, twitter is not a place for nuance and I should stick to long form journalism.

Are you truly sorry for your remarks? How can you convince the public of that?

I am sorry for my remarks because they hurt people and as a result also damaged the causes I struggle for and damaged my ability to fight for those causes. I dont know how I can convince people of that. All I can do is continue doing what I was doing.

Do you consider political adversaries to be actual enemies that should experience pain or suffering?

No I do not consider political opponents deserving of assault, let alone sexual assault. This might be the wrong time to state this, but I’ve thrown my career out the window for being careless so I might as well stress something.

Had Logan been a non-white journalist this story would have never made it to the news. Ahmed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed in cold blood and nobody ever heard of him. Dozens of other women were harassed and nobody will ever hear about them. And I have not seen any condemnation of the pure hatred, racism, and vitriol that I’ve seen spewed all over the Internet in response to the Lara Logan story. I’ve seen Arabs, Muslims and Egyptians being called animals and pigs in tens of websites and, right under the Logan stories, read some of the most vile rhetoric about them that would never fly about any other group.

And I am bothered by the celebrity culture of the mainstream media, which turns the journalist into the story, which is what I thought was happening. In addition, I really have been outraged by Logan’s reporting in the past, which I feel has defended American imperial adventures that cost the lives of many thousands of people in the Middle East. But that has nothing to do with the crime she suffered, nothing at all. I let my resentment of the mainstream television media and their role promoting American wars make me look like somebody who could ever justify a woman being abused. And I do not believe that.

My eye rolling comment had to do with my anticipation of what would be done with a story about the brown savages attacking a white woman, such a common theme in the West, including in America, whether its African Americans or Arabs. But none of this matters. These are not points that should be made at the expense of a woman being abused and these are probably not even points that a man has a right to make.