This has been a banner week for the media. First, The New York Times was forced to correct its estimate of the crowd size at President Trump’s rally in Nashville. Then MSNBC commentator Joy Reid was discovered to have published 9/11 conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic posts on her blog.
But the icing on the cake goes to HuffPost. It doxxed a private citizen on Twitter and sicced social media mobs on her family.
HuffPost reporter Luke O’Brien wrote a storyabout the Twitter user @AmyMek, who he identified as Amy Jane Mekelburg. Mekelburg has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter and has been retweeted by President Trump and former national security advisor Michael Flynn. She is a prolific tweeter, sending out as many as 25 tweets a day.
Mekelburg has tweeted a lot of disgusting and hateful things on her account. Most of the hate was targeted towards Muslims. She has accused Muslims of everything from child rape to engaging in a stealth campaign to bring Sharia law to the West. Mekelburg also tweeted cartoons and memes that urged the murder of Muslims.
O’Brien interviewed people he described as “ex-friends” of Mekelburg, who portrayed her as a racist. The former friends described examples of Mekelburg being rude and hateful in person towards Muslims and Middle Eastern-looking people.
For example, Mekelburg would excessively clean or refuse to use exercise equipment at the Planet Fitness she frequented if it had been used by a Middle Eastern person, they said. Interviewees also described an incident at a local service station where she bought bananas. An older Muslim immigrant was working the counter and she refused to speak to or look at him. She even refused to take change unless the man didn’t touch her, according to an unnamed former friend.
If the story was solely about how terrible a person Mekelburg is, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Instead, O’Brien went much further than just go after a widely followed Twitter account of a non-public figure. He involved innocent family members in the story and by doing that, he and HuffPost crossed a line.