New York Times Comes Under Fire for Portraying neo-Nazi as 'Normal'

The newspaper was widely criticized for a feature that described a white nationalist as 'the Nazi sympathizer next door,' and was eventually removed following backlash

The New York Times building in New York.
Richard Drew/AP

The New York Times was slammed by readers on Sunday after the newspaper published a story that portrayed a white nationalist as "the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key."

The article covered an interview with Tony Hovater of Ohio, who calls himself a "social media villain." Hovater helped found the Traditionalist Worker Party that took part in August's march in Charlottesville, Virginia. The story says Hovater's "Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother."

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized The New York Times for "treating the abnormal as normal" and suggested the article "humanize[d] the inhumane."

Other Twitter users responded angrily, including an L.A.-based journalist who wrote: "Times piece on the Nazis is about people in Huber Heights, Ohio where I'm from. Know what else? My grandparents were the 1st black family to live in HH. They were welcomed by the KKK burning crosses on their lawn & later murdering my uncle. Good job @nytimes."

Another called for the New York Times to retract the article, saying that "As one of many who took care of those literally physically hurt by #Nazis who came to Charlottesville, reading the glamour piece by the @nytimes stirred up a lot of emotions, none of which make me empathize with or care for #Nazi thoughts on any matter. Retract the article."

The widely-circulated publication released an apology later on Sunday, admitting to an error in judgement and saying that the controversial story was removed from the Times website. 

 "This was intended to show the darker reality beyond the anodyne language of the website. But we saw the criticism, agreed and removed the link," the statement read. 

Times national editor Marc Lacey also wrote an apology in response to the backlash, saying that "the point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than most of us want to think." 

The writer of the piece, Richard Fausset, addressed issues with his story in a follow-up story, writing that untouched issues in the article such as the lack of inquiries into Hovater's extremist background were "a hole at the heart of [his] story."