Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, reacted strongly to reports that he had dismissed executive editor Jill Abramson when she demanded pay equity with her predecessor, Bill Keller.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Sulzberger told reporters over drinks at Charley O's in Times Square. "There were several issues with Jill. For instance, during a routine drug test with our employees, we discovered that she had a different chromosome structure from most of the editorial board. That in itself should have set off alarms, but we decided to let it slide. I mean, we have several employees who share her identical chromosome structure -- we're an equal opportunity employer, remember -- but none in such an important position."
Ordering a second round of buffalo chicken wings (mild with extra blue cheese "to cool the palate," he chuckled), Sulzberger continued, "Over time, however, other disputes made themselves known. For instance, as with many of our employees who share her chromosomes, we noticed that Jill's bathroom breaks tended to be longer than the rest of ours. There was some concern that this would make it difficult for her to react to fast-breaking stories. I don't know what the problem was. The rest of us are in and out of there in no time."
Asked about Abramson's alleged "polarizing and mercurial" style with others at the Times, Sulzberger nodded. "That was another thing," he admitted, wiping barbecue sauce from his chin. "We expect that kind of thing from men -- hell, Keller could mop the floor with you and wring you out before you knew what hit you -- but with Jill... Again, it's a chromosome thing. We thought she could control it -- be a little more passive in dealing with the staff, and especially me -- but you can't fight science, try as you might." Sulzberger looked in the distance a moment before saying, "We wanted Jill to be more nurturing than she was capable of." When asked if that could be considered a sexist remark, Sulzberger strongly disagreed. "Don't lump me in with those science-deniers."
A moment later, Sulzberger appeared to cheer up. "We're thrilled to have Dean righting the ship," he said, referring Abramson's replacement, Dean Baquet. "Not only does he look like Colin Powell, he's got the kind of skills to make the New York Times the powerhouse symbol of journalism for the 21st-century. His chromosome structure meshes with the majority of the staff. He's expected to be aggressive, so no one's going to get upset when he blows his stack for no good reason. And best of all, he doesn't dither in the bathroom. I predict that Dean's going to be executive editor for a long, long time."
As Sulzberger paid the bill, a reporter asked about reports, repeated on several media outlets, that Abramson was "pushy." "I would never use that word," he replied, shaking his head violently. "I would say Jill was... shrill. No, strike that. Brusque. Yes, that's what she was. Brusque. That's a better word."