What’s wrong with Tony Ortega?

When Tony Ortega was dismissed from The Village Voice in September 2012, The New York Observer disclosed that he lost his job as Editor-in-Chief for neglecting his duties in favor of his personal daily rants against Scientology. It got so bad that one staffer at the Voice complained, “He was increasingly obsessed with Scientology and had neglected almost all of his editorial duties at the paper. Sometimes he wouldn’t even edit features.”

Likewise, online news site Capital New York (now Politico New York) called him “almost obsessive” about Scientology, reporting, “Sources told Capital that both the newsroom and the sales side of the Voice had become increasingly uncomfortable with the volume of Scientology coverage Ortega was churning out.” One former Voice staffer told Capital, “We thought it was destroying the Voice brand.” 

Tony Ortega was also a leading apologist at the Village Voice for its association with Backpage dot com, the online adult classifieds operation that was criticized by the attorneys general of nearly every state in the nation, numerous federal senators, and highly reputable reporters, for promoting human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors.

Several US Senators were moved to make their own voices heard in a sign-on letter stating in part:

We believe, as the leading U.S. website for prostitution advertising, Backpage.com can create a significant impact on this appalling industry by shutting off a major source of advertising for these practices – the adult services section of the website.”

According to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times,

Behind the tens of thousands of Backpage ads investigated by law enforcement there are victims with stories much like ‘Alissa,’ who over a two year period ‘was sold to johns seven days a week, 365 days a year,’ was transferred like chattel from pimp to pimp for roughly $10,000 per transaction, and had her jaw and ribs broken when she tried to escape.” (Nicholas D. Kristof, “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods,” New York Times, March 17, 2012)

Further, according to Nicholas Kristof,

Attorneys general from 48 states wrote a joint letter to Backpage, warning that it had become “a hub” for sex trafficking and calling on it to stop running adult services ads. The attorneys general said that they had identified cases in 22 different states in which pimps peddled underage girls through Backpage.”

The attorneys general cited a 15-year-old girl who was being forced to have sex with men last year in Dorchester, Mass. The pimp marketed the girl through Backpage.

But Backpage isn’t budging(Nicholas Kristof, “How Pimps Use the Web to Sell Girls,” New York Times, Jan 25, 2012)

The trial against the owners of Backpage, and several others, is scheduled to begin in January 2020. Will Ortega be subpoenaed?

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