‘NYT’ Columnist Bret Stephens Emailed Prof. Dave Karpf & University Provost Over Tweet Calling Him A ‘Bedbug’

'He is deeply offended that I called him a metaphorical bedbug,' Karpf says of Stephens.

new york times columnist bret stephens
Alex Wong / Getty Images

'He is deeply offended that I called him a metaphorical bedbug,' Karpf says of Stephens.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens sent a hostile email to a George Washington University professor, and CC’d the professor’s boss, over a tweet in which the professor called Stephens a “bedbug.”

The situation appears to have started with a tweet from Stuart A. Thompson, who, according to his Times profile, is the graphics director for the Opinion section. On Monday, Thompson tweeted that there are bedbugs in the Times newsroom.

Thompson wasn’t being figurative or metaphorical: there really are bedbugs in the New York Times newsroom. The critters, which have bedeviled New Yorkers and visitors for years, have indeed infested the building where the newspaper is headquartered.

GWU professor Dave Karpf, who, according to his profile on the university’s website, is an assistant professor in media and public affairs, noticed the tweet and tweeted a response.

“The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens,” he wrote.

Later Monday afternoon, Karpf said that he got an email from Stephens, in which Stephens had CC’d Karpf’s boss, the GWU Provost. In a tweet, Karpf explained that he was a bit taken aback by the situation, considering that he didn’t deliberately use Stephens’ Twitter handle to alert him to the tweet, and that his (Karpf’s) tweet had gotten little attention anyway.

“It got 9 likes and 0 retweets. I did not @ him. He does not follow me. He just emailed me, cc’ing my university provost. He is deeply offended that I called him a metaphorical bedbug,” Karpf wrote.

So what did Stephens say in his email? Karpf tweeted a screenshot of it.

Specifically, Stephens invited Karpf to come to his (Stephens’) home and call him a bedbug to his face.

“Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself,” he wrote.

“Hey, at least he called me ‘Dr. Karpf,'” Karpf joked in a follow-up tweet.

Loading...

Why Stephens CC’d Karpf’s boss is unclear. In the comments, some Twitter users are suggesting that Stephens was trying to get Karpf fired.

“Kinda makes you wonder how @BretStephensNYT would have reacted if you’d called him something really mean, like ‘tattletale,’ or ‘snitch,'” tweeted one user.

GWU Provost Forrest Matlzman, for his part, does not appear to have addressed the controversy himself: he does not appear to have a Twitter account, and a search for his name in recent news stories does not bring up anything related to Karpf and Stephens’ feud.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Stephens explained himself, saying that he didn’t want to get Karpf into professional trouble, but that “managers should be aware of the way in which their people… interact with the rest of the world.”

You can see a clip of his interview here.