‘I still stand behind my decision to publish,’ says editor who resigned over Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma cites threat of boycott from advertisers for resignation from New York Review of Books

Ian Buruma's decision to publish a controversial essay by disgraced former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi, seen here in 2016, led to his resignation from the New York Review of Books this week. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

A former editor at the New York Review of Books says he stands by his decision to publish a controversial essay written by disgraced former radio host Jian Ghomeshi.

Ian Buruma told Vrij Nederland, a Dutch magazine, that he lost his job after an intense backlash to the article from social media and magazine advertisers.

“It is rather ironic: as editor of the New York Review of Books I published a theme issue about #MeToo offenders who had not been convicted in a court of law but by social media,” the Dutch native said to Vrij.

“And now I myself am publicly pilloried.”

In 2008, British-Dutch writer Ian Buruma, left, met with Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander (who is now king). Buruma says he lost his job because of a backlash on social media and by advertisers to his decision to publish the Ghomeshi essay. (Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, the magazine published Ghomeshi’s essay, titled “Reflections from a Hashtag,” where he wrote he had “deep remorse” for the way he treated people, but said the accusations from the women were inaccurate.

Ghomeshi was acquitted in March 2016 of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking involving three women and later signed a peace bond after apologizing to a fourth woman that saw another count of sexual assault withdrawn.

The essay sparked an online backlash from those who said the former CBC Radio host should not have been given such a prestigious platform to write an unchallenged first-person piece. Critics complained that the piece wasn’t properly fact-checked and was self-serving to a man trying to rehabilitate his image.

On Wednesday, the magazine added an editorial note clarifying several details about the allegations against Ghomeshi, how they emerged and the legal proceedings that followed.

‘I feel forced to resign’

Buruma says he was not fired from the prestigious literary magazine, but felt forced to resign after he was told by his publisher that university publishers who advertise in the Review of Books were threatening a boycott.

“They are afraid of the reactions on the campuses, where this is an inflammatory topic,” Buruma said to Vrij.

“Because of this, I feel forced to resign — in fact, it is a capitulation to social media and university presses.”

He admits he didn’t gauge the forces of the #MeToo movement.

“I still stand behind my decision to publish,” Buruma said.

“I expected that there would [be] intense reactions, but I hoped that it would open a discussion about what to do with people who behaved badly, but who were acquitted in a court of law.”