The Associated Press (AP) fired Emily Wilder ’20 on Wednesday after the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) publicly condemned her prior involvement in the campus activist group Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Wilder’s dismissal has since drawn criticism — especially on Twitter. Many have raised concerns about SCR’s willingness to damage the reputations and livelihoods of fellow students and alumni, and others have condemned the AP for acting on SCR’s comments and dismissing a journalist following criticism of her past activism and support for Palestinian human rights.
The controversy came as the eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, continued to intensify. Last week, an Israeli attack destroyed the office building that housed the Associated Press, with Israel claiming that the building was also home to Hamas military intelligence assets.
SCR’s criticism of Wilder garnered significant attention on social media and prompted coverage from conservative outlets including Fox News and The Federalist, which criticized the AP for hiring a journalist with a history of supporting Palestine. The AP wrote in a statement to The Daily that they dismissed Wilder “for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP” but did not specify whether her firing was directly related to SCR’s comments.
According to Wilder, the AP told her that they had conducted a “thorough review” of her social media but did not offer any evidence as to what specific social media posts during her tenure as a news associate, which began on May 3, led to her termination. She called her firing “retrospective,” adding that since she began working at the AP, she has not posted anything on social media that she could see warranting her termination.
Wilder described herself as “shaken and overwhelmed” in the aftermath of her dismissal, adding that the AP “admitted that at least the thorough review of the social media was precipitated by [SCR’s] smear campaign” in her termination letter.
“I think to me and to many other people, it feels like they folded to the campaign and that they folded to SCR and the types of people that amplify their message,” Wilder said.
On Monday, SCR took to social media to condemn Wilder for her past involvement with SJP, calling her an “anti-Israel agitator” and a “Marxist” and criticizing the AP for “staffing their offices with hardened anti-Israel activists.” After news broke on Thursday of Wilder’s firing, SCR applauded her termination, writing in a statement to The Daily that they are “proud that our efforts directly led to this individual and the Associated Press being held accountable for their actions.”
SCR has a history of drawing attention to students’ social media posts and advocating for their professional dismissal, including in the context of Israel-Palestine relations. Students who are the targets of such campaigns often receive threats of physical harassment, including death threats. In July 2018, SCR suggested that a student be removed from their position as a resident assistant because of a Facebook post in which they wrote that they would “physically fight” Zionist students. The student ultimately resigned.
The University did not immediately respond to a request for comment on SCR’s role in Wilder’s firing and the organization’s broader behavior.
Jacob Kuppermann ’20 M.S. ’21, a close friend of Wilder who worked with her on activism related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called SCR’s actions “disgraceful” and said that this campaign is a “manifestation of a few years worth of distaste” that SCR has had for Wilder specifically. According to Kuppermann, SCR tried to cancel a 2019 event involving the Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley that Wilder organized as a leader in the student group Jewish Voice for Peace.
“It’s interesting that the Stanford College Republicans would take what is a broader pattern where people who speak out on Palestine issues get silenced and get fired from their jobs and use it against someone that they have history with,” Kuppermann said.
While Wilder understands and values the importance of fair and fact-based reporting, she believes journalists should not be expected to pretend that they have never possessed opinions.
She said that she has never attempted to hide her history of campus activism, which is easily discoverable online, and she added that the AP told her on Tuesday that she would not be fired for her past activism. They did suggest, however, that she remove “Black lives matter” from her social media bio, which she did.
“I do have opinions on this issue,” Wilder said. “I’m a Jewish American who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community and this issue has been important to me my whole life — long before I even thought about journalism as an option for me.”
Wilder said that while she does not view the AP social media policy as inherently unfair, she believes that the guidelines “are written so nebulously that they can be so asymmetrically applied and enforced when expedient,” especially at the expense of journalists of color and supporters of Palestinian human rights. The AP did not provide additional information on their policies surrounding employees’ past political activism.
“I think people should really think about what just happened,” Wilder said. “[SCR] are trying to smear a Jewish person who is out and proud about her Jewishness, her Jewish family, her Jewish roots and got her fired from her job — and that’s really what they accomplished at the end of the day.”