It was published by the Gannett-owned Asbury Park Press on Saturday, March 20, and deleted from the media company's website on Sunday, March 21.
The offensive photo caption identified “a f–king hot nurse” administering a COVID vaccine. It also called the unidentified nurse “a total JAP,” adding racism to the already profane and misogynistic text.
In a statement on Monday, March 22, Asbury Park Press Executive Editor Paul D’Ambrosio said the caption was fixed on Sunday as soon as editors were aware of it.
“The words in the caption were totally unacceptable and in no way reflect the principles and practices of the staff of the Press and Gannett,” D’Ambrosio said. “The Press and Gannett have a long history of fighting for inclusiveness, diversity and women’s rights.”
It has not been disclosed who on the APP.com staff actually wrote the offensive caption, or whether there has been any disciplinary action.
“I would think, with all due respect, someone has to pay a price for that," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said at a Monday press conference, according to the New Jersey Globe. "That’s completely, incredibly offensive. Even the apology missed the point.”
The photo was credited to Asbury Park Press staffer Gustavo Martinez Contreras, accompanying a Saturday story under his byline about efforts to bring the vaccine to people of color on the Jersey Shore.
Contreras was not immediately available for comment.
The caption was eventually changed and the photo was taken down entirely in later versions of the story, according to David Wildstein of New Jersey Globe, who first broke the story about the caption.
“This is beyond the pale and disgusting,” tweeted state Sen. Vin Gopal, a Democrat from-Monmouth County, while the photo was still live. “Asbury Park Press needs to provide an explanation and apology ASAP on why and how this was posted.”
“We took immediate and significant action once we became aware of the issue, and we changed our online procedures to ensure such an event never happens again,” D’Ambrosio added.
Martinez became the center of news attention last year after he was arrested by Asbury Park police while covering a Black Lives Matter protest.
The state Attorney General apologized for the arrest and charges were dropped, although a local prosecutor said the police officer did nothing wrong.
A judge recently ruled that Martinez's lawsuit against police for arresting him can proceed, as reported here.
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