The New York Times has apologised over leaked photos of its top staff mimicking Nepal’s royal massacre in 2001 that became viral on the social media this week.
Two leaked photos published on Tuesday by Gawker, an online media company and blog network, shows NYT staff in poses making fun of mass killings shortly after they happened.
“These photos are in poor taste, not reflective of the values of The New York Times and deeply regrettable,” NYT’s publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr told Gawker in a statement. Schulzberg is also the Chairman of the paper’s owner, The New York Times Company.
The Gawker source appears to have obtained both the images from a Facebook group for The New York Times alumni. They were posted over the weekend by former NYT staff and current Bloomberg View editor Anne Cronin.
One photo shows the then NYT opinion page editor Andrew Rosenthal wielding a toy M16 rifle and a bottle of wine over staffers pretending to be dead bodies, recreating the June 2001 carnage. The massacre was committed by crown prince Dipendra, who gunned down eight people including the king, queen, before turning the gun on himself. One of the weapons that he used was an M16.
Some of Nepal’s twitteratis also responded to the images. “It’s gruesome for NYT editors to have been play-acting Nepal royal palace massacre. Actually find it hard to believe,” tweeted Kanak Mani Dixit.
The other photo shows a large number of staff posing in an apparently laborious reenactment of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide of 1997 in San Diego. Bill Keller, who would go on to reach the position of executive editor, is seen presiding over the staff posing as post-suicide cultists. Executive editor is the highest-ranking editorial position at NYT.
Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said the photos reflected an annual tradition at the newspaper. “As I told Gawker, the photos were taken as part of the foreign desk’s annual tradition of seersucker day almost two decades ago,” Ha said in an email to The New York Daily News.
This embarrassment occurs only three days after it was revealed that the paper was tricked into publishing an article claiming that the Charleston shooter Dylann Roof was a diehard fan of the children’s cartoon My Little Pony.