Friday, June 29, 2018

Buck Tanks

Everybody's gotta eat.

The debacle raised all sorts of questions about New America’s coziness with corporate funders, and as staffers gathered in the conference room—across the lobby from the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab”—they were impatient for answers. Many worried that the think tank’s intellectual integrity had been compromised, and they feared for their reputations. What would happen the next time someone’s work ran crosswise with the interests of a big donor?

Instead of stanching the anxiety, Slaughter stoked it. According to a recording of the meeting, she said that while she recognized that the standard in journalism was never to show sources what you were writing, New America’s “norm can’t be that. We’re an organization that develops relationships with funders. And you know, these are not just black boxes; they’re people. Google is a person, the Ford Foundation—these are people. . . . And particularly when they give you money, which is really a nice thing . . . basic courtesy I think requires—if you know something really bad, you say, ‘Here’s a heads-up.’ ”

Things spiraled from there. Slaughter insisted that Lynn left not because he had criticized Google but because of the non-collegial way he’d handled himself. Many couldn’t believe the contradictory responses they were hearing. “The whole spectacle left me feeling really sick to my stomach,” recalls an employee who later left the organization. “It became clear they were going to respond to this ordeal with a whole lot of bureaucratic whitewashing.”