New Yorker Apologizes After Fact-checker Wrongly Claims ICE Worker Has Nazi Tattoo

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Per Gaertner, the tattoo on his left elbow is “Titan 2,” the symbol for his platoon while he fought in Afghanistan
Per Gaertner, the tattoo on his left elbow is “Titan 2,” the symbol for his platoon while he fought in AfghanistanCredit: Screen shot/Twitter

A staffer for the esteemed New Yorker magazine sparked outrage when she falsely tweeted that the tattoo of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent looked like the Iron Cross, a symbol of Nazi Germany and other white supremacist groups.

Talia Lavin, a fact-checker and New Yorker contributor, mistakenly claimed on Twitter over the weekend that an ICE employee pictured in a May 25 agency advertisement had the Iron Cross tattooed on his left elbow, according to reports. The tweet has since been deleted.

ICE quickly came to the defense of Justin Gaertner, the combat-wounded U.S. Marine veteran and computer forensics analyst pictured in the advertisement. The agency slammed Lavin for the tweet that “essential labeled him a Nazi” in a statement posted on Twitter on June 18.

The agency also clarified that Gaertner’s tattoo is a “Titan 2,” the symbol of the platoon he fought with in Afghanistan, where he lost both of his legs in an IED explosion.

“Anyone attempting to advance their personal political opinions by baselessly slandering an American hero should be issuing public apologies to Mr. Gaertner and retractions. This includes Levin [sic] and the New Yorker,” the statement read.

The New Yorker subsequently issued an apology on Monday.

“The New Yorker has just learned that a staff member erroneously made a derogatory assumption about ICE agent Justin Gaertner’s tattoo. The personal social-media accounts of staff members do not represent the magazine, and we in no way share the viewpoint expressed in this tweet,” a spokesperson told The National Review. “The tweet has been deleted, and we deeply regret any harm that this may have caused Mr. Gaertner.”

In two tweets posted on Tuesday, Lavin said that she was not the originator of the rumor about Gaertner’s tattoo, and that she had taken down her original tweet within 15 minutes of posting it.

“I made a dumb tweet. I deleted it long before it could have made any impact, and as soon as I thought it might be misinformed,” Lavin said. “The only thing I regret is the way this reflected on my employer's vital work.”

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