AP Fires Former Arizona Republic Intern After Right-Wing Complaints

A.P. has fired Emily Wilder following complaints by right-wing media.
A.P. has fired Emily Wilder following complaints by right-wing media. AP
(Updated with AP's response)

The Associated Press' Phoenix bureau fired former Arizona Republic writer Emily Wilder this week following negative articles about her political activities in conservative media.

Wilder confirmed on Thursday the accuracy of a tweet containing a note by the news agency's U.S. West News Director, Peter Prengaman, that she was no longer working there. She had started work at the A.P. only a few weeks ago.

"I was terminated," she said.

Wilder told Phoenix New Times that the A.P.'s ire focused on her most recent social media posts. The agency had "done a thorough review of my social media and said I had violated company policy" after her hiring date of May 3, she said.

Her firing comes after recent articles in the Washington Free Beacon, Fox News, and other right-wing outlets, which themselves followed a complaint by Republicans at Wilder's alma mater, Stanford University.

The Stanford College Republicans tweeted on May 17 that they learned the A.P. had hired "Stanford anti-Israel agitator, Emily Wilder, who referred to the late Sheldon Adelson as a 'naked mole rat' as one of their 'journalists.'" The group retweeted one of her posts mentioning the quote and her work with pro-Palestinian activists as they targeted Israel's Birthright travel program.

The Washington Free Beacon then published an article on May 18 that said, "The hire could fuel concerns about the AP's objectivity amid revelations that the news outlet shared an office building with Hamas military intelligence in Gaza."

The "staff" report also slammed Wilder for allegedly helping lead the Students for Justice in Palestine group at Stanford and that she "hosted" a speech by cartoonist Eli Valley, who the Anti-Defamation League has called "bigoted."

Fox News linked the story of her hiring to the bombing of A.P.'s Gaza office by Israeli forces, calling it a "second Middle East-related issue" and referring to her "protests against Jewish students."

Prengaman's note to his staff was shared on Twitter on Thursday: "All, A note to say that news associate Emily Wilder is no longer with the AP. We will try to fill the position as soon as possible. Thanks. Peter."

Prengaman didn't return a message on Thursday. He later declined comment and referred New Times to AP spokesperson Lauren Easton.

"The Associated Press generally refrains from commenting on personnel matters, we can confirm Emily Wilder’s comments on Thursday that she was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP," Easton said. "The Associated Press covers conflicts all over the world. Our social media guidelines exist to ensure AP's ability to cover the news accurately and impartially, and to keep our journalists safe. Every AP journalist around the world has the responsibility to adhere to our news values and social media policy.

"We have this policy so the comments of one person cannot create dangerous conditions for our journalists covering the story. Every AP journalist is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report on this conflict, or any other, with fairness and credibility, and cannot take sides in public forums."

This is why we have guidelines and why we enforce them.

Wilder worked as the breaking news intern for the Arizona Republic from June 2020 until April 2021, according to her LinkedIn site. She's known by her Republic colleagues as a hard-working, gumshoe reporter who covered last summer's civil-rights protests and other high-profile stories.

"Shame on @AP, @peterprengaman," tweeted Rebekah Sanders, a Republic reporter and chair of the Arizona Republic Guild. "I stand with Emily. Her reporting at our newspaper was excellent. Reverse your decision NOW."

Wilder's firing inspired numerous tweets on Thursday, many of them supportive of Wilder.

"Wolf Blitzer used to work for AIPAC decades ago. Should he be fired by CNN or barred from reporting on Israeli issues? This is gross," tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The news media, with a tradition of attempted objectivity, has been particularly sensitive to "cancel culture." Wilder's firing follows similar turmoil in Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication last year. Incoming dean Sonya Duhé was un-hired after complaints about her interaction with black students emerged — which Duhé sparked with a tweet. She's now suing her former employer, Loyola University, and its student newspaper, The Maroon, for alleged defamation. Battinto Batts Jr. was just named as the new dean. Blaze Radio station director and student Rae'Lee Klein was removed from her position after complaints by fellow students and multicultural groups over a tweet. And ASU's student newspaper, the State Press, fired columnist Alexia Isais last year for posting an anti-cop tweet.

The A.P.'s social media policy for employees, posted online publicly, flatly prohibits making "any postings that express political views."

The policy goes on to state that, "AP staffers must be aware that opinions they express may damage the AP’s reputation as an unbiased source of news. AP employees must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues in any public forum and must not take part in organized action in support of causes or movements."

While her active support of the Palestinian movement seems to be in her college past, some of Wilder's most recent tweets and retweets seem to fly against the A.P. policy by taking a side in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Wilder also opined about "objectivity" in the news in a May 16 tweet:

"'objectivity' feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim. using 'israel' but never 'palestine,' or 'war' but not 'siege and occupation' are political choices—yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased."
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern