‘Killing Vegans’: When A Badly-Worded Email Loses You Your Job

The editor of a supermarket food publication in the UK was stood down after sending an email about a series of articles on "killing vegans, one by one".

William Sitwell, former editor of Waitrose Food magazine, was responding to a pitch from food writer Selene Nelson about a "plant-based meal series" of articles.

In response, Sitwell wrote: "Hi Selene. Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?"

It did not go down well. After media attention, Sitwell apologised for his "ill-judged joke", but within 24 hours Waitress announced that he would be "stepping down" as editor, effective immediately.

There's been a bit of discussion about whether Sitwell's email deserved to be a "career-ender", including from noted food critic Giles Coren.

But Sitwell is hardly the first person to find themselves without a job over an unsavoury or poorly worded exchange.

Justin Milne, former chairman of the ABC
Photo: AAP

This one should be fresh in every Australian's memory. Justin Milne, former chairman of the ABC, stepped down just one day after Fairfax reported that he had sent a damning email where he called for staff to be sacked.

The email, addressed to former managing editor Michelle Guthrie, reportedly told her to "get rid of" chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici because the Coalition government "hated" her. Not a great look for an independent broadcaster, and it would appear the ABC agreed: Milne stepped down, and Alberici remains employed.

Talia Jane, former Yelp employee
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. Photo: Getty.

In 2016, Yelp employee Talia Jane published a scathing open letter to CEO Jeremy Stoppelman on the website Medium, calling out the company for her alleged low wage and how unlivable it is in a city like San Francisco.

“I can’t afford to buy groceries,” she wrote. “Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?”

She was fired about two hours later, reported Quartz. Later, Stoppelman tweeted that he was sympathetic to her plight and that he wasn't "personally involved" in firing her. She still lost her job.

Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director
Photo: Getty.

This one isn't technically an email, but it's too fantastic not to include. One evening in 2017, for reasons that are still unclear, Donald Trump's new White House communications director called up a journalist from the New Yorker to rant about his colleagues.

He never once declared the comments off-the-record, so naturally the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza wrote the whole thing up, including the infamous Scaramucci line: "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock."

Scaramucci was fired four days later. He lasted just ten days in the White House.

James Damore, former Google employee
Photo: Getty.

James Damore was a software engineer who wrote a ten-page memo rallying against Google's diversity initiatives and claiming that women just weren't suited to work in tech.

"Differences in distribution of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50 percent representation of women in tech and leadership," he wrote.

"Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business."

Damore was fired very, very quickly for his memo, portions of which violated Google's Code of Conduct and  "cross[ed] the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace", according to a memo from CEO Sundar Pichai.

For a while there, his Twitter handle was @FiredForTruth, if you want to know how well he took his firing. These days, he's changed his name back to James Damore, but continues to tweet opinions, mostly about political correctness, feminism and social media.

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Photo: Getty