Nicholas Kristof Turned Kim Kardashian into a Turkish Insult

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Players: Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times who's built his reputation on writing about poverty and human empathy; Kim Kardashian sympathizers who have empathy for the rich and talentless, plus the Turkish people.


The Opening Serve: Yesterday the world witnessed the dissolution of Kim Kardashian's 72-day marriage. And so did Nick Kristof.  "Kim Kardashian cld have spent her wedding money instead building 200 schools in poor countries. That wld have lasted," tweeted Kristof.  Adding: "On behalf of Amernian-Americans, I apologize for Kim Kardashian. Let's start a rumor that she's actually Turkish."

The Return Volley:  Kristof's tweets, like the Kardashian wedding didn't go unnoticed. "[Kristof] advocates for the poor but is willing to malign an entire ethnic group (the Turks). Disheartening & disappointing," wrote Elmira Bayrasli, a writer for Forbes.  Kristof responded, "Ah, lighten up. I didn't malign Turks. I maligned Kim K and mocked Armenian-Turkish tensions. No nastiness toward Turks." Which prompted this response from Bayrasli: 

Kristof later apologized for the tweet, stating: "It is hard, but, okay, I'm sorry to all Turks offended."  He was less apologetic to Kim Kardashian sympathizers.  "@NickKristof what kind of comment is that?...I'm sure your salary might build one school or half..did you build one? Get off your high horse," wrote a (possible Kardashian apologist?) tweeter in regard to his comment about schools.  Kristof responded in a way only Kristof could: "As a matter of fact, I built a junior high school in Cambodia."

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What They Say They're Fighting About: Kim Kardashian and her wedding.  The money, the short life of the marriage, the 61 covers, exactly who her really tall husband is--all of the stuff that has fascinated many and is a, in Kristof's mind, waste of time.

What They're Really Fighting About: Nick Kristof's brand. Kristof has built his reputation on stories of poverty and empathy. Bayrasli calls him out for not living up to the image that he puts out there. She's chiding him for floundering into mean girl territory and for betraying the Kristof brand--you know, the kind of Kristof that builds junior high schools in Cambodia. 

Who's Winning Now: Kristof splits the two spats and Bayrasli comes out on top. Kristof here, is the victim of being Nicholas D. Kristof. His columns aren't about being funny, nor is he billed as a comedian. That's also why he met harsher push back on his Turkey-Kardashian tweet, and it's exactly why he can't get away with the "lighten up excuse." He knows this, hence the quick apology to Bayrasli. And it's not accidental that Kristof reminds us that it's him, not most of the rest of us who can build schools in developing countries and get paid for writing about, for example, a former prostitute in Kenya sewing her way out of poverty.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.