MANHATTAN (CN) — Mocking his raunchy tabloid’s desire for a “safe space,” a sports writer wants damages after the New York Post fired him for a tweet that equated the inauguration of Donald Trump with the Sept. 11th attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The Post’s sudden pretensions toward decorum are treated with heavy irony in the complaint filed Wednesday by Edward Barton Hubbuch.
Better known to his readers as Bart, Hubbuch spent nine years covering the National Football League as a columnist for Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid when Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.
Not working that day, the sports writer memorialized the solemn occasion by logging onto Twitter at his home, using his personal computer.
Referencing two other disastrous dates in U.S. history, the now-deleted tweet said simply: “12/7/41. 9/11/01. 1/20/17.”
Hubbuch got a call from his supervisor 20 minutes later.
“You’re going to take that down right now and apologize or I will fire you,” the supervisor said, as quoted in the complaint.
Though Hubbuch deleted the tweet immediately and posted two apologies, human resources took a page out of Trump’s “Apprentice” scripts and fired the writer on Jan. 27.
Hubbuch’s complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court calls out the irony of the self-styled swashbucklers at the Post clutching their pearls when employees post about Murdoch’s political allies to their personal social media.
“Not known for its sensitivity, the Post regularly exploits tragedy, violence and death to sell news,” the 17-page complaint states. “It also pushes the bounds of what is considered appropriate news coverage.”
Perhaps the Post’s most famous front-page headline, “Headless body in topless bar,” comes from a murder story in 1983.
When not reveling in sex and dismemberment, the Post trades on its hard-right politics, lampooning former President Barack Obama as Fidel Castro and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as Mao Zedong.
“Post readers don’t need, demand, or expect ‘safe spaces,’ or to be sheltered from controversial views,” the lawsuit says.
The Post has defended Hubbuch’s firing. “We expect our reporters to interact with the public, including on social media, in a professional manner,” a spokesman for the tabloid said in an email. “Unfortunately, Mr. Hubbuch has engaged in a pattern of unprofessional conduct and exhibited serious lack of judgment, including most recently showing disrespect for the victims of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.”
Hubbuch meanwhile notes that the sentiment of his tweet had been tame in comparison with what the Post’s competitors at the New York Daily News have been running. Just a month before Trump’s inauguration, a political cartoon on the front page of the Daily News showed the president-elect beheading the Statue of Liberty.
“Despite its exploitation of tragedy to sell newspapers and its shift to tabloid journalism, the Post, in firing plaintiff, suggested that plaintiff’s off-duty tweet expressing his personal opinion about President Trump — which was based on plaintiff’s concern for the country’s well-being and national security, and not by any desire to make money — somehow constituted misconduct warranting termination,” the complaint states.
The Post has a financial motive in censoring criticism toward the new president.
“Trump is an avid reader of the Post and often expresses contempt for writers who criticize him,” the complaint notes. “As President, Trump can serve Murdoch and 21st Century Fox’s interest in blocking the AT&T-Time Warner merger. And he can just as easily harm that interest. That gives Murdoch a strong incentive to please Trump and to avoid upsetting him.”
Hubbuch says his firing violates New York Labor Law’s protections against termination for “legal recreational activities outside work hours, off of the employer’s premises and without use of the employer’s equipment or other property.”
Represented by Scott Lucas, the writer wants his job back, plus lost wages and other damages.