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New York Times editorial page editor, brother of Democratic senator, under fire for sloppy hire

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The New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet has been mocked for hiring a controversial figure.

The New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet has been mocked for hiring a controversial figure.  (The Aspen Institute )

The New York Times editorial page editor, who is the brother of a Democratic U.S. senator, is under fire for a sloppy hiring process on the heels of the debacle surrounding opinion writer Quinn Norton.

James Bennet oversees the Times’ print and online opinion pages, but apparently failed to properly vet Norton, who was heralded as the newest addition to the paper as lead opinion writer to cover the "power, culture and consequences of technology" on Tuesday.

Twitter users quickly cried foul over a swarm of online posts they uncovered by Norton, including one in which she acknowledged she was “friends with various neo-nazis” even though she “never agreed with them.”

Just hours after The New York Times promoted its hire of Norton, the paper fired the new scribe -- citing, in an ironic twist, her past tweets.

“There are companies that do more vetting when deciding to hire an intern than the NYT did before hiring a columnist and a member of their editorial board,” reporter Yashar Ali tweeted.

In other posts, Norton either used vulgar terms herself, or retweeted others doing so. Norton's account once retweeted the n-word. Norton has also justified her use of homophobic terms by referring to herself as a “queer activist.” 

“Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways,” Bennet said in a statement announcing that Norton had been fired.

Bennet’s brother is Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who co-sponsored the 2009 DREAM Act and was a member of the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of eight senators who wrote the first draft of the 2013 border security and immigration bill. The family is influential in liberal circles and some industry insiders feel that James Bennet could eventually succeed Executive Editor Dean Baquet. However, not everyone is a fan and critics on both sides of the political aisle have taken to Twitter to question his ability following the Norton fiasco.

Political columnist Jason Linkins wrote a scathing look at Bennet that quotes former Times Op-Ed veteran Leah Finnegan calling him “kinda bad at the basics of his job,” which are “writing and making sure facts are correct.”

Author Evan Handler tweeted that Bennet’s “skills” need to be assessed because the Norton situation “displays a pathetic level of ineptitude on the part of everyone involved” in the decision.

“Who at the Times has been tasked with trying to explain chan culture to James Bennet,” Deadspin editor Barry Petchesky wrote, while a HuffPost reporter has called for Bennet to retire. Another user simply told Bennet to “resign” and a plethora of critics attacked Bennet’s seeming inability to conduct a Twitter search.

“As I said this morning about a completely different incident before he tried to hire a Nazi sympathizer: ‘another embarrassment for @JBennet -- his tenure as @nytopinion editor is going to be a black mark for a long time,’” an Ohio State University political science professor tweeted.

Other readers have called for the Times to “hire better background checkers” and announced that Norton’s hiring is the impetus to finally cancel their subscription to the Gray Lady.

Meanwhile, Norton called her termination a "context collapse" on Twitter, implying her views have been misinterpreted.

“[N]o harm no foul," Norton wrote on Twitter. "I’m sorry I can’t do the work I wanted to do with them. I wish there had been a way, but ultimately, they need to feel safe with how the net will react to their opinion writers."

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report. 

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.

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