Left-leaning website Salon has removed a controversial 2016 article criticizing Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student who died after being imprisoned for 17 months in North Korea for attempting to take a sign.
In a statement on Tuesday, Executive Editor Andrew O’Hehir told Business Insider that the site chose to remove the article, titled “This might be America’s biggest idiot frat boy: Meet the UVa student who thought he could pull a prank in North Korea,” noting the article was a write-up of a segment on the Nightly Show, a late night talk show that ran on Comedy Central from 2015 to 2016.
O’Hehir said he wasn’t aware of the article until Tuesday.
“It was a 200-word post wrapped around the March 2016 Larry Wilmore clip about Warmbier, one of numerous late-night roundup pieces Salon and many other sites post over the weekend,” O’Hehir said.
“It contained no original reporting, opinion or analysis on the Warmbier case and was entirely based on the Wilmore segment,” he added. “Furthermore, we had significant editorial turnover during 2016 and no one on our current staff had anything to do with publishing that piece. I don’t think anything in it was inaccurate: Wilmore said the things he said. But under the circumstances, it seemed respectful and appropriate to remove it.”
Right-wing media critics were up-in-arms this week over a handful of op-eds among relatively obscure bloggers criticizing Warmbier for deciding to steal the sign and arguing he demonstrated ignorance about real-world consequences in the strict dictatorship.
The most high profile recognition the argument received came courtesy of Wilmore, who joked that he felt little sympathy for Warmbier, dubbing him “Otto von Crybaby” and noting that he stole the sign partially as an initiation prank to join a secret club at the University of Virginia.
“Dudes if you’re hazing includes international crimes, you’ve got to read the fine print on your frat bro warranty,” Wilmore said. “Frat bro privilege not valid in totalitarian dystopias.”
Since Warmbier was detained, the State Department has ratcheted up travel restrictions to the country, while there is legislation in Congress to limit American travel to North Korea.