One photo, obtained by Gawker, showed Rosenthal holding a replica M-16 and a bottle of wine while recreating the June 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, with a calendar on the wall showing the photo was taken the same month.
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) June 23, 2015
The massacre was a gruesome scene, with Prince Dipendra, armed with three guns including an M-16, killing nine members of his family before committing suicide. Two children were saved when Prince Paras pulled a sofa over them amidst the gunfire.
The NYT staff do not stick to just mocking heinous mass shootings, however. Another photo shows Executive Editor Bill Keller standing over a recreation of the Heaven’s Gate Cult mass suicide.
On March 26, 1997, 38 members of the cult, as well as their leader Marshall Applewhite, were found dead, lying neatly in matching outfits. The members of the cult had consumed a mixture of phenobarbital and applesauce, which they washed down with vodka before placing plastic bags over their heads to cause asphyxiation.
The members believed that they would board a UFO that was following the Hale-Bopp comet.
— 78tiger (@78tiger) June 23, 2015
The photos were posted to a private Facebook group of New York Times alumni, by Anne Cronin, the current Bloomberg View editor. In a statement to Gawker she wrote that the photos are part of a “wonderful inhouse tradition,” and made no apologies for the insensitive content.
Cronin expressed frustration that the photos were leaked from the group, which is intended to be private.
“I used to organize a Seersucker Day at the Times to mark the first full day of summer,” Cronin wrote. “I took all the photos every year and posted some on the New York Times Alumni forum, which asks that we not share this material with anyone outside the group.”
In a statement to Gawker, current Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said: “These photos are in poor taste, not reflective of the values of The New York Times and deeply regrettable.”
When Gawker approached Keller for comment, he responded with a fairly clever zing against their website, but failed to address the offensive nature of the photos.
“This is what journalists did with their childish impulses before there was Gawker,” Keller stated.
Rosenthal has yet to comment on or publicly address the photos.