Associated Press faces backlash after sacking Jewish staffer over posts criticising Israel

Associated Press faces backlash after sacking Jewish staffer over posts criticising Israel
A Stanford-educated reporter was fired just three weeks into her job at the Associated Press after right-wing students criticised her social media posts about Palestine.
3 min read
21 May, 2021
Associated Press are at the centre of controversy [Getty]

A Stanford-educated journalist who worked at the Associated Press news agency for less than a month was fired after US conservatives released old social media posts she wrote about Palestine, and her involvement in Pro-Palestinian activism during her time at university.

Emily Wilder started a new job as a news associate for the Associated Press on 3 May and on 19 May she was terminated for "violating the company’s social media policy".

Wilder's employment was terminated after Stanford College Republicans on Monday wrote a Twitter thread showing her pro-Palestine activism during her time at university. She graduated in 2020.

Wilder, who is Jewish and was a member of pro-Palestinian groups Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, had initially criticised media coverage of Israel's forced expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah.

"'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 following day, Stanford College Republicans took to Twitter to call Wilder an “anti-Israel agitator", condemning the Associated Press’s decision to hire her. For days after, she was reportedly the target of online harassment and "absolutely vile messages".


Wilder said her editor had initially assured her that she wouldn't be fired.

"The editor said I was not going to get in any trouble because everyone had opinions in college," Wilder told SFGATE. "Then came the rest of the week."

Several conservative news outlets, including Fox News, Federalist and Washington Free Beacon published stories in which they attempted to link Wilder’s hiring to the Israeli army’s recent destruction of a building in Gaza housing the Associated Press’s Gaza bureau.

Wilder says the Associated Press fired her due to mounting pressure.

Read more: Activists say Sheikh Jarrah posts 'deleted' by Instagram as Israel's forced evictions capture global attention

"They told me that I violated their social media policy and would be terminated immediately, but they never said which tweet or post violated the policy.

"I asked them, 'Please tell me what violated the policy,' and they said, 'No.'"

The company's social media policy states: "AP employees must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues in any public forum and must not take part in organised action in support of causes or movements."

Wilder has criticised the policies in recent interviews.

"These social media policies are so nebulous, almost by design, so that they can be selectively enforced ... in a way that polices and harms the most vulnerable journalists among us," Wilder told The Washington Post.

"Yes, I had opinions in college, and yes, I still have opinions, because everybody has opinions," she said. “I have never denied any of that."

Social media users have taken to Twitter and other platforms to condemn the Associated Press for its decision, while several journalists have called for the agency to reverse its decision.

Some observers have called Israel's recent bombardment of Gaza a watershed moment in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Tel Aviv has struggled to control mainstream and social media narratives on events.

Viral images of Gaza's devastation after Israeli attacks have prompted many prominent Western public figures to speak out, including sports stars, actors and other celebrities.