The executive editor of the Asbury Park Press has apologized for a photo caption that included misogynistic and ethnic slurs in a story about Covid vaccinations that was on their website for more than 14 hours this weekend.
The caption under a photo of an Orthodox woman nurse at the Center for Health Education, Medicine and Dentistry in Lakewood said: “A fucking hot nurse, a total JAP, loads a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.”
Paul D’Ambrosio said that the photo ran with an unapproved and offensive caption and that it was removed “as soon as it was brought to our attention.”
“As executive editor of the Asbury Park Press, I apologize deeply to women, the Lakewood Jewish community, the Asian American community and all our readers,” D’Ambrosio said. “The words in the caption were totally unacceptable and in no way reflect the principles and practices of the staff of the Press and Gannett.”
It is not immediately clear why D’Ambrosio has apologized to the Asian American community. The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that the nurse was an Orthodox Jewish woman.
D’Ambrosio said that the newspaper “took immediate and significant action once we became aware of the issue, and we changed our online procedures to ensure such an event never happens again.”
He did not immediately respond to an 11:26 AM email with questions about who was responsible for writing the caption, if any editors reviewed the story before it went live, and for details on the online procedural changes.
“(The Asbury Park Press and Gannett) photo caption was unacceptable, and taking it down without adequate explanation is not enough,” siad Alyana Alfaro Post, the press secretary to Gov. Phil Murphy. “We need answers about how and why this happened, and why such crude, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic language was published.”
State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood) called the caption “horrific.”
“It denigrates a nurse working on the front lines based on her religion and gender,” Singer said. “While I’m glad to see the APP’s apology, how did this happen and how will you stop it in the future,” Singer said.
But D’Ambrosio did note that “The Press and Gannett have a long history of fighting for inclusiveness, diversity and women’s rights.”
D’Ambrosio’s defense of Gannett’s record on diversity follows a move by reporters and staffers at three other newspapers in the chain – The (Bergen) Record, the Daily Record and the New Jersey Herald – to unionize.
The Gannett employees cited, among other things, the company’s “lack of inclusion and diversity in the workplace.” They have advocated for greater diversity in hiring, coverage and reader engagement.
Gannett has rejected a request for recognition of The Record Guild as their union and appears to have embargoed any coverage of the bid by their employees to unionize.
Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) accused Gannett of holding anti-union captive audience meetings with their employees.
A union spokesperson confirmed that Gannett management is holding those meetings in a bid to stop employees from forming a union.
This story was updated at 1:34 PM with comment from Alfaro Post and at 1:38 PM with comment from Singer.