Asbury Park Press fires reporter over ‘f***ing hot,’ Jewish slur caption
The Asbury Park Press has fired a multimedia reporter whose news story included a photo caption deemed offensive to women and Jewish people.
The termination and statement of new editing safeguards at one of the state's largest news publications comes after government officials in Lakewood threatened to pull advertising.
The caption read: "A f**king hot nurse, a total JAP, loads a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during in the Center for Health Education, Medicine and Dentistry vaccination tent in Lakewood, New Jersey, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021," according to a screenshot posted by the New Jersey Globe.
The term JAP was understood to mean an acronym for Jewish American Princess, which is considered a slur because it plays off anti-Jewish stereotypes.
The photos and story were by multimedia reporter Gustavo Martinez Contreras, who made headlines last year after police arrested him while covering a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
The photo and caption were posted on Saturday and taken down on Sunday after being noticed by Globe, a political news site run by Bridgegate convict David Wildstein, who often critiques New Jersey media.
Executive Editor Paul D'Ambrosio apologized two days after the story was published online, although his initial statement was criticized by community leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy as being inadequate.
In a second and more thorough apology on Tuesday, D'Ambrosio explained how the caption wound up being posted and said that "the reporter in question is no longer with the company."
Martinez Contreras wrote an apology to D'Ambrosio in which he said that he prided himself as being an advocate and supporter of women's rights and cultural sensitivity "but this caption shows that I have plenty of work to do to address my own issues to make sure that my words and actions always treat others with respect."
D'Ambrosio said reporters and photographers have the ability to upload photos directly to the newspaper's website. He said the company trusts the professionalism of its employees during breaking news.
"The late hour and the self-publication led the story to blend in with the dozens of other stories on the site without the proper safety checks," D'Ambrosio said. "Going forward, no photo and caption will be published without another staffer looking it over regardless of the time of the day."
After the newspaper's first apology was posted, elected municipal and school officials in Lakewood announced that they would be pulling government advertising from the newspaper.
"After consulting with Deputy Mayor Miller and our attorney Steve Secare, I asked the clerk to switch advertising to the Ledger," Mayor Raymond Coles told New Jersey 101.5 before the newspaper's latest statement. "I will ask the full committee to weigh in on this decision at the next township committee meeting before we make a permanent decision."
Coles said the firing of Martinez Contreras will not change the plan.
The Board of Education followed suit and was expected to take a vote at Tuesday's meeting, according to spokesman Michael Inzelbuch.
"This issue is bigger than one reporter," Inzelbuch said when asked if the board would reverse course. "But – of course – I defer to the Board."
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, said Monday the "apology was a good beginning but the author of these horrific and unacceptable comments needs to be held accountable"
The Anti-Defamation League of New York & New Jersey called on the Press to conduct a full investigation and wants to meet with editors "to ensure that no population is subjected to this kind of treatment in the future."