Despite the social media backlash and staff frustration over the last week surrounding incoming Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Alexi McCammond, Condé Nast is sticking with its decision to hire the Axios politics writer to lead its social justice-focused youth title.
Condé Nast’s senior leadership, including chief content officer Anna Wintour, were aware of McCammond’s past tweets — which mocked Asians and included homophobic comments — before her hire. She discussed them with several executives during the interview process, including global chief diversity and inclusion officer Yashica Olden, and they determined she had done her due diligence to move past it, according to sources with knowledge of the thinking.
McCammond’s exit would likely create more problems for Condé Nast. It would be a clear admission of bad judgement in hiring her. And the publisher would be hard-pressed to find someone else to take her place amidst the controversy.
McCammond, who had previously apologised for the tweets in 2019, did so again in a lengthy public statement on Wednesday, where she promised to redeem herself to Teen Vogue’s staff and readership. She has been meeting with the employees in recent days, as did Wintour earlier this week.
McCammond’s tweets resurfaced soon after her appointment last week, with online critics noting she was joining Teen Vogue amid an uptick of anti-Asian violence. Condé Nast was already under more scrutiny than many other publishers because of public complaints from employees that the company lacks diversity and had treated employees of colour poorly. Some 20 members of McCammond’s new team at Teen Vogue supported a statement online disavowing her tweets and asking for an “internal conversation,” which several editors posted to their personal accounts.
“I am so sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language,” McCammond wrote in her public apology, describing her tweets as racist and homophobic. “At any point in my life, it’s totally unacceptable.”
Teen Vogue staff are more frustrated with the publisher than with McCammond, according to sources familiar with the situation. Many were dismayed that they were not made aware of the hire before the publisher went public with the news, nor given an opportunity to help address McCammond’s past tweets before the controversy ballooned online.
But the publisher has stood by its candidate, even as social media commenters continued to criticise the move, and as Ulta, which The Daily Beast reported had a Teen Vogue advertising campaign worth seven figures, paused its spending.
“Alexi McCammond was appointed editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue because of the values, inclusivity and depth she has displayed through her journalism,” said Condé Nast in its only statement on the controversy. “Throughout her career she has dedicated herself to being a champion for marginalized voices. Two years ago she took responsibility for her social media history and apologised.”
The team has another leadership shift on the horizon. Executive editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay is exiting the title to pursue other projects, a decision she made before McCammond’s appointment and the ensuing controversy, according to several people familiar with her decision. She joined Teen Vogue in 2018.
On Twitter, McCammond had her defenders, who argued that her age (she was a teenager when she published some of the tweets in question) was a factor, but the support came largely from an older cohort, not the Teen Vogue target demographic. Overall, the comments on social media in recent days have been overwhelmingly negative, especially on Instagram both on Teen Vogue’s accounts and directed personally at McCammond.
“When we talk about accountability versus cancel culture, we need to talk about how this should have been addressed not just by her but also Teen Vogue and Condé Nast as a whole especially in light of the current national discourse about Asian racism,” wrote Diana Tsui, editor at The Infatuation and formerly of The Cut, on Instagram. Tsui was one of the first people to post about McCammond’s past tweets over the weekend.
The publisher will also need to work to smooth over the controversy with concerned advertisers. Ulta paused an advertising campaign with the publication, but the deal isn’t off the table completely.