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Sam Biddle, a Brooklyn-based technology journalist most recently for The Intercept, is under fire by an alt-right personality for alleged sexual harassment claims. Biddle, 30, has worked for numerous websites in recent years — including Gawker — and is often the recipient of criticism for some controversial articles and opinions.
Three years ago, he publicly shamed a Twitter user for an offensive joke, resulting in her losing her job. He also tweeted his desire to “bring back bullying” during the Gamergate controversy.
Now, alt-right social media personality and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich is calling out Biddle for sexual harassment allegations. On October 21, Cernovich’s media company published an unconfirmed list of men in media who have had sexual misconduct claims against them.
Here’s what you need to know about Biddle:
1. Cernovich’s Unconfirmed List Accuses Biddle of ‘Trying to Masturbate’ in Front of a Woman
Dozens of women have recently come out with allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. During the middle of the controversy, which has spurred a social movement encouraging woman to speak out, BuzzFeed wrote that there’s been a spreadsheet circulating around the internet that “named and shamed dozens of men in media for bad behavior toward women.”
The list hasn’t been made public, but BuzzFeed claimed that allegations “range from ‘flirting’ and ‘weird lunch dates’ to accusations of rape, assault, stalking, harassment and physical violence.”
On October 21, Cernovich claimed that he obtained the “full Shitty Men in Media list” and would subsequently be publishing it on his website. There has been no confirmation that the names listed on Cernovich’s website are indeed on the list of “Shitty Men in Media” that BuzzFeed claims has been circulated, or if the allegations against the men are true.
According to Cernovich’s list, at least one woman has accused Biddle of misconduct. In Biddle’s entry on the alleged list, it says women accused him of “inappropriate communication, harassment, inappropriate digital contact, sexual assault, followed someone into a bathroom and tried to masturbate in front of them.”
Cernovich said he’s contacted Biddle for a statement, but that hasn’t yet been received or published.
2. Biddle Worked at Gawker Before Moving to The Intercept
Biddle is currently a writer and technology reporter for The Intercept, a news organization based in New York. According to his LinkedIn profile, Biddle covers “everything from startups and web culture to surveillance, hackers, and national security.”
Before coming to The Intercept, though, Biddle had numerous positions at media companies on the East Coast. He graduated in 2010 from Johns Hopkins University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and also took courses related to front end web development.
While he was in school, Biddle worked as a staff writer for DSist.com before working as a staff writer at Newser for two years (2007-2009).
After graduation, Biddle got a job as a staff writer at the now-defunct Gawker. He held the position for three years (2010-2013) before receiving a promotion to be the editor of Valleywag, a blog on the platform that lasted until 2015.
On the heels of the decision to task Biddle with running the blog, he received a promotion and also served as a senior writer for the website. He left Gawker in June 2016 when the website ceased publication because of its bankruptcy filing, prompted by a lawsuit by Hulk Hogan worth $31 million.
Biddle wrote a letter to his colleagues following his announcement that he was joining The Intercept.
Dear Gawker family —
My first job at this company six years ago was the first real job I’ve ever had (which explains a lot right?) and it’s been the most rewarding part of my life since. But although sometimes I’ve assumed I would work here until I die, before being placed into an enormous ornate crypt with Nick and John, blog years are sort of like dog years, and after six, I’m leaving Gawker later this month. The good news is I’m just moving upstairs to The Intercept, so you’ll probably still be able to hear my extremely loud and annoying laugh from inside the building. The bad is that I’m leaving a company that’s become like my family and best friends since 2010, through extremely thick and extremely thin. I’m going to miss every single one of you because there is simply nowhere like here.
I want all of you to know that my decision predates Friday’s turmoil and even the Hogan verdict by months, and I can’t overstate how much I still believe in this place and its importance. Working at Gawker was my dream when I first knew I wanted to write for a living, and sometimes I still can’t believe that it not only came true, but that I got to live it with people like you — insane, insanely funny, extremely smart, and unstoppable. I’m always in disbelief that I’ve had a job where we get to basically laugh all day, every day, while at the same time telling amazing stories and providing a critical eye where no one else would look. It’s just time for me to take a next step.
When I’ve felt exhausted or discouraged over the years, all I’ve needed to do is look at the writers and editors next to me, and it’s enough to feel thrilled and determined again. I know that I’ll be able to look to you all for that same kind of reminder and courage no matter when and where we are.
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ps please don’t start putting me in #badtweets immediately, no matter how much I deserve it
In 2014, Biddle was named by Vanity Fair as being one of the “news disrupters,” who the magazine wrote are “a new breed of journo-entrepreneurs (striking) out on their own, cutting to the chase and influencing the masses without (much of) a filter.”
3. Biddle Was Responsible for the Public Shaming of a Woman Who Tweeted a Controversial Joke
In December 2013, Biddle played an important role in the online shaming Justine Sacco, a seemingly random woman with 170 Twitter followers at the time. Sacco was tweeting satirical jokes from her account while on a plane trip from New York to Cape Town, South Africa.
“Weird German dude get some deodorant,” was one of the tweets she sent said, while the second prompted Biddle to call her out.
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m white,” the tweet said.
Sacco, who’s South African, said the tweet was supposed to “mimic — and mock what an actual racist, ignorant person would say of South Africa.”
Biddle saw Sacco’s tweet at face value and posted it in an article to Gawker. Biddle said he was editing a blog when he saw the Tweet and “barely needed to write anything to go with it.”
I had taken its cluelessness at face value, and hundreds of thousands of people had done the same—instantly hating her because it’s easy and thrilling to hate a stranger online.
Sacco received death and rape threats for her tweet and ended up losing her job at a public relations firm and quit the internet, deleting all of her profiles. As The New York Times reported, Sacco was one of the most hated people on the internet for a while because of the outrage caused by the tweet.
In a later blog post, Biddle said he “didn’t think about whether or not I might be ruining Sacco’s life.” He said that the two eventually met and Sacco “bore no resentment” toward him and they stayed in touch.
“I consider her a friend,” Biddle wrote. “I never thought I’d write (or think much) about her again.”
4. Biddle Sent Tweets During Gamergate Encouraging Bullying Against ‘Nerds’
Gawker, and Biddle in particular, had been targets of the Gamergate controversy in August 2014. Gamergate was an internet campaign that related to feminism and ethics in video game media. It started because multiple women in the video game industry were the recipients of continued harassment, they said. In the middle of the controversy, Biddle sent several tweets encouraging people to bully “nerds.”
Biddle claimed that the Gamergate controversey has “reaffirmind what we’ve known to be true for decades: nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission.”
Biddle said that after he sent the tweets, he “watched a whirlpool of spleen and choler swelling till it had sucked in most of my energy and attention, along with that of many of my coworkers.” Hundreds of people contacted Gawker and Biddle with their complaints and various people “challenged” him, he claimed.
“Many of these people were disingenuously seizing on my tweet to direct a right-wing campaign against my employers,” he wrote in a blog post. “But it seemed clear that some portion of the outraged mass I was now facing genuinely believed that I was advocating for middle school-style bullying.”
Biddle called the bullying tweets a failed attempt at an ironic joke, related to his past criticisms of Sacco.
5. New York Magazine Called Biddle ‘the Most Hated Journalist in the Bay Area’
Many of Biddle’s articles have been criticized and described as being “controversial.”
A 2013 article he posted while working for Gawker called out former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer for being incredibly rich. Biddle’s article pointed out that Mayer and her husband bid $33,000 at a charity auction for a luxury children’s playhouse. Biddle wrote: “While Yahoo! struggles to recreate itself, aimlessly, out from the shadow of the 1990s, its glam CEO is forklifting mini-houses. How the other half of a percent lives!”
The article received criticism by many, including Slate, which claimed Biddle “glosses over some important facts about Mayer’s playhouse.” It said that she purchased it at a Bay Area charity event, which should be considered a positive, and jabbed him for sensationalizing an executives purchases.
A 2014 New York Magazine profile on Biddle referred to him as being “perhaps the most hated journalist in the Bay Area.” NY Mag writer Laura Bennett claimed that the reason Biddle receives so much hate “is obvious.”
“His style is proudly resistant to nuance and largely absent of reporting, save the occasional gossipy ridbit, often emailed his way from an anonymous source,” Bennett wrote.