Bret Stephens Tattle Tales to Provost, Quits Twitter After Professor Calls Him “Bedbug”

Images from Alumni Weekend at the University of Chicago June 7, 2014. (Photo by Jason Smith)

The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens dramatically quit Twitter after he was called a “bedbug” on the social media app and was widely mocked for his dramatic response.

David Karpf, an Associate Professor at George Washington, first replied to Stuart Thompson on Twitter, who said there were bedbugs found in the NYT Newsroom. Karpf humorously replied that the bedbugs were simply a metaphor for Bret Stephens:

Despite the Tweet getting very little attention, Stephens saw it, and he was pissed. He decided to send an email to Karpf and his university provost:

Karpf later posted the email in full from Stephens. It reads:

Dear Dr. Karpf,

Someone just pointed out a tweet you wrote about me, calling me a “bedbug.” I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are saying prepared to say about other people – people they’ve never met – on Twitter. I think you’ve set a new standard.

He continues:

I would welcome the opportunity for you 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. I think that would take some genuine courage. I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say. Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself.

Bret Stephens was then roundly mocked on Twitter for his comments:

There was, of course, a slightly more serious undertone to the criticism. Stephens has a platform, and decided to use his influence to lash out at someone who mocked him. Karpf told the Washington Post that he thought the email to his provost from Stephens was completely inappropriate. “He not only thinks I should be ashamed of what I wrote, he thinks that I should also get in trouble for it,” Karpf said. “That’s an abuse of his power.”

Stephens then went on MSBNC to try and defend himself, claiming that he had “no intention whatsoever to get him in any kind of professional trouble,” but that calling him a bedbug was “dehumanizing and totally unacceptable.”

This did him no favours, and Stephens decided that he’d had enough being an object of ridicule, and stormed off Twitter. In a tweet, he said that it was “time to what I long promised to do,” and that “Twitter is a sewer”:

It 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 my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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