- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens — who frequently writes critical articles about politically correct culture and leaving “safe spaces” — is deactivating his Twitter account Tuesday after sending a vaguely threatening email and copying the boss of a George Washington University associate professor for calling him a “bedbug.”

Media and Public Affairs Professor David Karpf tweeted Monday a joke about a recent bedbug outbreak in The New York Times newsroom by saying, “The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”

Later that night, Mr. Karpf posted an email he received from Mr. Stephens — with his provost CC’ed — saying someone “pointed out” the insult to him and ripped the professor for setting “a new standard” in creating negative public discourse.

He then vaguely threatened Mr. Karpf, inviting him to “come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face.”

“It got 9 likes and 0 retweets. I did not @ him. He does not follow me,” Mr. Karpf tweeted. “He is deeply offended that I called him a metaphorical bedbug.”

The tweet quickly went viral and led to Mr. Stephens being mocked — especially since he frequently writes columns championing free speech and complaining that “safe spaces” and the politically correct, or P.C., culture have led to a world that no longer can take a joke. 

Among the controversy, Mr. Stephens announced he would be deactivating his Twitter account, calling the social media site a “sewer” that “brings out the worst in humanity.”

“I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt. Thanks to all of my followers, but I’m deactivating this account,” he said.

However, Mr. Stephens defended his response, saying he sent a “very civil” email and “had no intention whatsoever to get him in any kind of professional trouble.”

“All I would say is that using dehumanizing rhetoric like bedbugs or, you know, analogizing people to insects, is always wrong,” Mr. Stephens said.

“There’s a bad history of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past. I’ve been called worse. I wrote this guy a personal note. Now it’s out there for everyone to see,” he added.

• Bailey Vogt can be reached at bvogt@washingtontimes.com.

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