(JTA) – Bret Stephens has left Twitter abruptly, apparently motivated by a spat with a George Washington University professor on the social media platform. “Time to do what I long ago promised to do,” The New York Times opinion columnist tweeted on Aug. 27 before deactivating his account. “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.”
The episode started after an internal Times memo was leaked on Aug. 26 saying that bedbugs were seen in the newsroom. The New York Post reported that multiple areas in the paper’s building were evacuated and cleaned. Later in the afternoon, David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at GW, joined the many who had tweeted about the insect issue. “The bedbugs are a metaphor,” Karpf wrote. “The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.” Stephens responded with an email to Karpf, and copied the school’s provost. “I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people – people they’ve never met – on Twitter. I think you’ve set a new standard,” Stephens wrote. “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. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part.”
Many commenters said Stephens had over-reacted.
Stephens, a conservative on the predominantly liberal opinion pages of The Times, has often been a lightning rod for left-leaning and pro-Palestinian criticism. A frequent critic of Donald Trump, he has also been attacked from the right. Before winning a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal, Stephens was editor of The Jerusalem Post.