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Fans of the Slate series The Gist were served a “best of” episode late last week with word host Mike Pesca was “out this week.” Turns out Pesca has been indefinitely suspended without pay from his news and culture commentary series after he reportedly argued in favor of people who are not Black being able to use the N-word in some situations.

The New York Times says Pesca’s comments came during a discussion with coworkers on the workplace chatroom app Slack about a Times reporter who was fired this month after he allegedly used the racial slur with a group of students he was guiding on an overseas trip two years ago. A Slate rep confirmed to the paper that Pesca, who is White, was put on indefinite suspension. “I can confirm this was not a decision based around making an isolated abstract argument in a Slack channel,” she told the Times.

The online publication Defector, which first broke the story, reported that Pesca allegedly used the racial slur on two earlier occasions in 2019. One came during the reporting of a story about a Black security guard who was fired for using the term. 

Reached via Twitter, Pesca told Defector he was told by Slate not to discuss the incident publicly. “I’m in a bind because these allegations could cause great reputational damage and they are very misleading and often inaccurate. All I can do is call on Slate to release the full Slack conversation so people can read my words and not hear secondhand descriptions of motivations others have assigned to me,” he told the website.

The Gist launched in 2014 and became one of the first news and analysis shows to release episodes daily. In addition to his work on the podcast, Pesca is also a commentator at NPR.