David Remnick is the editor of the New Yorker magazine. Remnick has worked for the magazine since 1992, first as a reporter covering the Middle East, Russia, and Europe, and more recently as an editor. Before coming to the New Yorker, Remnick was a staff writer with the Washington Post, serving as the newspaper’s Moscow reporter and eventually writing a Pulitzer-prize winning book about his observations of the Soviet Union titled “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.”
The New Yorker has been at the center of a media firestorm ever since the magazine — known for its liberal, cosmopolitan tendencies — invited Steve Bannon to appear at the annual New Yorker festival. On Monday, Remnick announced that he planned to interview Bannon on stage as part of the New Yorker festival. There was an immediate outcry on social media, as Bannon’s many critics complained that the New Yorker should not give him a “platform” to express his views. New Yorker staff writers complained about Bannon’s invite, and many of the celebrity speakers who were slated to appear at the festival announced that they wouldn’t show up if Bannon was included. After some hesitation, Remnick finally announced that he had dis-invited Bannon from the festival.
You can read Remnick’s announcement and his reasons for dis-inviting Bannon here.
Here’s what you need to know about David Remnick:
1. Remnick Took a Lot of Heat and Got Called ‘Bannon’s Chump’ For Inviting Bannon to Speak
The New Yorker’s invitation to Steve Bannon didn’t last long. The magazine announced their list of speakers on Monday — the list included actors Jim Carrey, Emily Blunt and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and writers Haruki Murakami and Zadie Smith. David Hogg, a gun control advocate who survived the school shooting in Parkland, is also appearing.
By Monday night, Remnick had issued a statement dis-inviting Bannon. The announcement followed hours of angry push-back on social media where people were calling Remnick — among other things — “Bannon’s chump” for inviting Trump’s former top strategist to the New Yorker festival. One social media user called Remnick — and other journalists interested in debate — “an integral part of the enabling edifice of white supremacy” and claimed that they stand to profit from giving Bannon a platform.
2. Bannon Initially Praised Remnick as ‘Fearless’ But Then Slammed Him as ‘Gutless’ For Taking Back the Invite
Steve Bannon isn’t getting as much national attention as he used to. Ever since he split with the Trump administration and stepped down from Breitbart, he’s been getting less and less time in the spotlight. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bannon accepted the New Yorker’s invitation to appear onstage with Remnick — and it also shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was angry at the dis-invitation.
Bannon issued a statement on Monday night, after the New Yorker dis-invited him. You can read the statement here. In the statement, Bannon says tha the New Yorker pursued him for weeks begging for a chance to interview him. He says he finally agreed when it became clear that David Remnick himself would do the interview: “The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation.”
But after Remnick took back the invitation, Bannon took back his praise. Instead of calling Remnick “fearless,” he now lambasted him as “gutless,” writing, “In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.”
3. Remnick Said He Wanted the Opportunity to ‘Question Someone Who Helped Assemble Trumpism’ — But Many Called This Idea Naive
Remnick was widely criticized for offering to give Bannon a “platform” where he could publicly express white nationalist, anti-Semitic, and racist views. (Bannon is called a racist and a white nationalist by many; he himself has denied those claims and calls himself an “economic nationalist” and a populist.) The New Yorker editor says that he wanted to use the interview as a way to “put rigorous pressure” on Bannon and make Bannon explain his point of view, clearly and without evasion. Remnick wrote, “The point of an interview, a rigorous interview, particularly in a case like this, is to put pressure on the views of the person being questioned.”
Reminick pointed out that Dave Cavett has interview George Wallace and Lester Maddox; there is nothing new in journalists interviewing controversial figures. The goal, Remnick said, is not to change Bannon’s mind, but rather to help people better understand what Bannon believes, and why he has been so influential in American politics. Remnick called Bannon “someone who helped assemble Trumpism,” in a reference to Bannon’s tremendous influence over Trump’s campaign and the early part of his presidency.
But Remnick’s critics say that he is extremely naive to think that it’s possible to “debate” Steve Bannon. The journalist John Warner https://twitter.com/biblioracle/status/1036685924569174016wrote, No doubt a New Yorker festival audience will be hostile to Bannon, but this also plays to Bannon’s advantage. Amongst a hostile elite, he will convey his “truths” without anger or violence and he will be de facto legitimized.” Many others mocked the idea of inviting Bannon to a “festival of ideas” because, they implied, Bannon has no ideas other than racism and a desire for power. Some created mock versions of an exchange between Bannon and Remnick:
4. Remnick Called Trump’s Election ‘An American Tragedy’ and Writes Frequently About the Need to ‘Resist’ the President
Remnick got a lot of attention in November 2016 when, just after Trump’s election, he penned an essay for the New Yorker titled “An American Tragedy.” You can read that essay here. Remnick wrote that Trump’s election was “a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.” He argued that Trump has won by taking advantage of the “anxiety” and “dispossession” felt by many white voters, and denounced the campaign for its alleged anti-semitic and racist elements.
Remnick has continued to regularly attack Trump in his editorials. A casual look through Remnick’s recent pieces reveals headlines like “The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump” and “The Unwinding of Donald Trump.” It’s no surprise that Trump refers to The New Yorker as dying media.
In March, Remnick wrote that “resistance” to Trump has to include debate. You can read his full editorial here. The piece argues “resistance must take the form of the affirmation of the values and institutions that the President has scorned and threatened” and that this includes “an honest, complex, open-minded debate on immigration, income disparity, distrust of government, guns, race, gender, speech, social media, and the environment.”
5. Remnick Has Three Children and Has Spoken Movingly About His Daughter’s Severe Autism
Remnick is married to Esther Fein, a longtime reporter for the New York Times. He and Fein met when they were both reporters in Moscow; Fein worked for the New York Times, and Remnick worked for the Washington Post. The couple got married in New York in 1987.
Remnick and Fein have three children: Noah, Alex, and Natasha. In an interview on NPR, Remnick said that Natasha — his youngest child — has severe autism which, he said, is “a huge challenge for my wife and I and for my sons and for – and above all, for her.” Remnick said that after Natasha was born, Fein decided to quit work and stay home with her. Natasha also has babysitters and therapists who work with her. Remnick acknowledged that the family’s life has been shaped by Natasha’s needs in many ways .But he also described his daughter as “wonderful.”
Remnick told NPR that he grew up in an “ordinary” and “middle class” New Jersey suburb and went to public school. He and his wife now live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His son Noah is a photographer for the Newark Star-Ledger.