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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Over 100 Associated Press employees signed onto an open letter Monday saying they "strongly disapprove" of how the organization handled the firing of Emily Wilder, a news associate who was targeted by conservative media for pro-Palestinian activism in college.

Why it matters: Wilder claims she was fired last week with little to no explanation, beyond generally violating the company's social media policy. The incident has prompted widespread backlash.

  • AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton would not share with the AP how Wilder had violated the outlet's social media policy.
  • The staffers who signed onto Monday's letter said the decision could harm the outlet's credibility on covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and demanded "more clarity" on why Wilder was fired.

Driving the news: In a Twitter post on May 17, the Stanford Republicans accused Wilder — who is Jewish — of being an "anti-Israel agitator" and "promoting the blood libel that Jews 'ethnically cleansed' Palestinians from the land of Judea and Sumeria." Wilder was fired two days later, per AP's reporting.

  • The AP said Wilder was fired for violating social media policies as an employee, but did not provide specifics. Employees are not allowed to share political views or opinions on other public issues in order to protect the outlet's reputation for objectivity.
  • After joining the AP, Wilder had retweeted a reporter's footage of a pro-Palestine protest, news footage of Israeli airstrikes, and a journalist's tweet that stated reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does readers a disservice if it lacks historical context.
  • She also retweeted a post detailing edits made to a New York Times headline on the conflict, which had removed mentions of Palestinians being evicted from their homes.

After her firing, Wilder said in a statement: "The compassion that drove my activism is part of what led me to be a reporter committed to just, critical, fact-based coverage of under-told stories."

  • "Now, after being fired after less than three weeks at my job, I have to ask what kind of message this sends to young people who are hoping to channel righteous indignation or passion for justice into impactful storytelling."

What they're saying: "Wilder was a young journalist, unnecessarily harmed by the AP’s handling and announcement of its firing of her," the staffers said in an open letter shared Monday morning.

  • "We need to know that the AP would stand behind and provide resources to journalists who are the subject of smear campaigns and online harassment."
  • "As journalists who cover contentious subjects, we are often the target of people unhappy with scrutiny. What happens when they orchestrate a smear campaign targeting another one of us? Interest groups are celebrating their victory and turning their sights on more AP journalists."
  • "They have routinely made journalists’ identities subject to attack. Once we decide to play this game on the terms of those acting in bad faith, we can’t win."

AP staffers said the lack of communication on Wilder's firing "gives us no confidence that any one of us couldn’t be next, sacrificed without explanation."

  • The staff is calling for clarity on which of Wilder's social media posts warranted termination and why, a forum on what AP deems best social media practices for journalists, and a diverse committee to update the AP's social media policy.

In response to the letter, AP spokesperson Lauren Easton said the outlet "looks forward to continuing the conversation with staff about AP’s social media policy," per BuzzFeed News. Easton added that the AP "did not choose to name Emily Wilder publicly, as the letter states."

Go deeper

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Capitol riot lawsuit

Rep. Mo Brooks during a June news conference on Capitol Hill. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

Team USA's Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the final of the women's 1,500m freestyle swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky took home the Olympic gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle swimming race Tuesday evening, becoming the first female swimmer to win the newly added division. Team USA's Erica Sullivan won silver.

Of note: The Tokyo Games mark the first time that the long-distance race has been open to women, and Ledecky paid tribute to her predecessors after the race. "I just think of all the great U.S. swimmers who didn’t have a chance to swim that event," she said on NBC.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Katie Ledecky celebrates with teammate Erica Sullivan after winning the women’s 1500m freestyle final. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

🚨: Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

🤸🏾‍♀️: Simone Biles pulls out of gymnastics team finals, citing her mental health

🎾: "This one sucks more than the others," Naomi Osaka says on upset loss

⚽️: USA women's soccer ties Australia, propelling them to the quarterfinals

🏊‍♀️: Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins first U.S. women's Tokyo Games gold

👟: World Athletics president supports reviewing marijuana rules in doping

🏄‍♀️: American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker