Vox.com editor-in-chief Ezra Klein defended his decision to hire anti-gay apologist Brandon Ambrosino as a writing fellow but admitted he had not reviewed Ambrosino's body of problematic LGBT commentary before hiring him.
On March 12, the forthcoming news and policy site Vox.com announced that it had hired Brandon Ambrosino -- a gay man who has earned a reputation for defending homophobes and peddling misinformation about LGBT people -- as a writing fellow. The announcement was met with widespread condemnation from LGBT activists and writers who called his hiring an “embarrassment” and a "major mistake."
Klein responded to the criticism in an interview with The American Prospect's Gabriel Arana published March 13. Klein said that he had only read the pieces in question after criticism against Abrosino's hiring mounted, and that while he lacks “the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate,” he believes his new hire lacks “an iota of homophobia”:
In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn't read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on, but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. “I don't want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate,” Klein said. “But when I read his pieces, I didn't come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.” “Homophobia”--which activists too often use as shorthand to describe anti-gay views that don't necessarily stem from fear--may be the wrong word for it. But even a cursory read through Ambrosino's writings should raise red flags. Klein, though, seems mystified by the blowback. He acknowledges that's he is new to the process of staffing an enterprise like Vox. “I gotta be honest,” he said. "With a lot of this stuff, I'm trying to figure out what success means." [emphasis added]
Klein went on to defend his decision to hire Ambrosino, claiming that the anti-gay apologist would help bring “ideological diversity” to Vox:
Klein told me he found Ambrosino's background as a gay Christian compelling and is trying to cultivate “ideological diversity” as well as gender and racial diversity at Vox. While he has a number of female hires in the pipeline, Klein said he is struggling to find racial minorities for the venture, adding: “I also want to say, other kinds of diversity are important--ideological diversity.” I asked Klein what he meant by ideological diversity. “It's not that I have a quota that I need Republicans,” he said; he just doesn't want a staff where “everybody thinks the same way.”
Klein's argument was not convincing for Arana, who concluded that "[i]t's disappointing, to say the least, that a journalism venture with the tremendous promise and resources of Vox Media is relying on that cheap trick" of seeking “cheap traffic.”