New York Times business reporter Rob Copeland took heat on social media for writing a piece suggesting there is wide sympathy for FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried despite the latter being charged with defrauding customers and money laundering.
Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas on Dec. 12 and charged with eight criminal offenses after federal prosecutors claimed he had been diverting money to cover expenses as well as lavish purchases since 2019. Bahamian police arrested him at his local home after being notified the U.S. government would likely request his extradition.
Bankman-Fried’s company lost and allegedly defrauded billions of dollars, however, Copeland’s article on Monday painted a different picture of the founder.
“The connection between Bahamians and Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was born and spent most of his life in California, reflects a complicated set of circumstances. Much as he did in the United States, Mr. Bankman-Fried donated millions of dollars to a dizzying collection of Bahamian charities, churches and government entities — including the local police,” Copeland wrote.
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He added, “Yet in interviews across the island Mr. Bankman-Fried called home for just over a year, residents almost universally said that while the white-collar nature of his crimes was troublesome, they were hardly comparable to the gang violence that pervades some corners of the island. They expressed fears of economic fallout for the island if he and the other cryptocurrency brethren he attracted didn’t return.”
Social media users on both sides of the political aisle attacked this framing of Bankman-Fried’s arrest as “bizarre” and even “pathological.”
“Step one: find the editor who thought this was a good idea. Step two: get rid of said editor,” National Observer columnist Max Fawcett joked.
“’The black people’s crimes are way worse than the white guy’s crimes’ is quite the take, @nytimes,” radio host Dan O’Donnell noted.
Politico reporter Ari Hawkins wrote, “You can’t tell from the piece, but crime in the Bahamas fell 13% in 2021 and has steadily declined for the last several years. (14 grafs in the author vaguely gestures to this). And still, these descriptions of non-white regions as apocalyptic by default aren’t going anywhere.”
Al-Jazeera reporter Ali Harb tweeted, “This is bizarre. Inexplicable. This guy is indicted for defrauding investors and campaign finance violations (messing with US democracy). Instead of looking into his political and financial operations, the newspaper of record is telling us about his ‘good heart.’”
“NYT’s support for fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried is pathological,” Sky News host Rita Panahi wrote.
“In a time of extreme polarization online, @nytimes has brought all sides together in condemnation of this. (Check the replies),” NBC national political reporter Marc Caputo remarked.
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Twitter’s Birdwatch feature also displayed a context note composed by readers to criticize the story for its framing on the Bahamas.
“NYT is using a handful of anecdotes and false equivalence comparing non-violent fraud and violent crimes. The islands are also forecasting record tourism for next year,” the context read and shared an article explaining the Bahamas’ rising tourism industry.
Although Bankman-Fried was arrested and charged, he was released on a $250 million bond by a New York judge and has been allowed to stay in his parents’ home in California as he awaits trial.