Recently appointed Gay Times editor fired over anti-Semitic, anti-transgender tweets
By John Paul Brammer
The hiring of Josh Rivers as editor of Gay Times magazine last month was meant to be a step in the right direction for the decades-old U.K. media outlet, which is set to relaunch on Nov. 30.
In the U.K. and the U.S., criticism has been levied against "gay media" for its lack of diversity, inspiring hashtags on Twitter like #GayMediaSoWhite. That Rivers, a black gay man, was appointed to such a high position seemed to be the perfect response to those accusations.
But shortly after Rivers was hired, BuzzFeed U.K.'s LGBTQ editor, Patrick Strudwick, unearthed offensive tweets from Rivers' past, many of which contained derisive comments about people of color and women, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-transgender slurs.
"The creepiest gay men are short, old asian men with long nails. Fact," said one tweet posted in January 2011 that was screenshot and shared by BuzzFeed.
"I wonder if they cast that guy as 'The Jew' because of that f---ing ridiculously large honker of a nose. It must be prosthetic. It must be," read another post from January 2011.
The BuzzFeed report, which was published Wednesday, also noted Rivers referred to transgender people with a slur, writing, "Look here, tranny" in one tweet.
Those tweets and a number of others have since been removed from Rivers' Twitter account.
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In response to the BuzzFeed report, Gay Times initially announced the magazine was suspending Rivers pending an investigation. On Thursday, however, the outlet said it had terminated his employment.
"After an investigation surrounding historical tweets by Josh Rivers, the newly appointed Editor of Gay Times magazine; we announce that his employment has been terminated with immediate effect," the statement, posted to the Gay Times Twitter page, said. "We sincerely apologise for the offence that was caused, particularly to those members of our wider community to whom such inappropriate and unacceptable commentary was the focus."
A Gay Times spokesperson directed NBC News to the previously released statement in response to a request for comment.
For his part, Rivers posted a statement to Twitter apologizing for his tweets and to those he offended.
"These tweets from my past show a deep self-loathing that I've worked hard to overcome," Rivers wrote. "I have taken steps to address the issues that prevented me from treating people with the respect and kindness I value so dearly now."
A request for comment from Rivers was not immediately returned.
But while Rivers has been let go, the debate over diversity in gay media is far from over.
A former Gay Times deputy editor, Ryan John Butcher, who declined to comment on the Rivers situation specifically, said one of the struggles of working in LGBTQ or "gay media" is there is no unifying factor in the audience besides their status as a gender or sexual minority, making it difficult to please everyone. However, he said one tangible step LGBTQ outlets could take to be more diverse is hiring people to write about their own communities.
"One thing I always strove to do was when we featured black issues, I'd commission black journalists and writers," he said. "And when it came to features about trans issues, I'd commission trans writers. Not only because it makes for better journalism, but also to give more of a platform and a voice to those communities that are otherwise not as well represented."
Dylan Jones, editor of QX Magazine, an LGBTQ outlet in the U.K., told NBC News the debate over inclusivity in U.K. gay media has shown no signs of slowing down.
"The issue of diversity in the U.K.’s gay media has been an exceedingly volatile topic over the last couple of years," he said. "Firstly, there is a notable lack of it. The fact that Josh Rivers was the first ever person of color to become the editor of a gay U.K. publication is telling in itself."
Jones said advertising often dictates what content goes up in gay media outlets, but as an editor, he said he hopes to put more of a spotlight on the full breadth of diversity within the LGBTQ community.
But as for the Gay Times, he believes the magazine made the right move.
"I agree with Gay Times’ decision to let Josh go. I’m sure Josh himself would agree with me," he said. "It had to be done."