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New Yorker magazine apologizes to combat-wounded Pasco veteran over staffer's Tweet

Justin Gaertner, a computer forensic analyst, has a cross tattoo that sparked a Twitter storm this week. Gaertner, who lost his legs to an explosion in Afghanistan, received an apology from the magazine writer who started the exchange when she said the tattoo looked like a Nazi symbol. [CHRIS URSO | Staff]
Published Jun. 19, 2018

The New Yorker magazine has apologized to a combat-wounded Pasco County veteran about a tweet posted by one of its staffers.

Over the weekend, New Yorker staffer Talia Lavin wrote in a tweet that a tattoo on the left elbow of Justin Gaertner looked like an Iron Cross — a post that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said "essentially labeled him a Nazi."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over combat-wounded Pasco veteran

The tweet was deleted, but a screen shot of another Lavin tweet from Sunday night shows she acknowledged the error and removed it "so as not to spread disinformation."

Still, it sparked outrage and put the spotlight on Gaertner, a computer forensic analyst who tracks down online pedophiles for ICE and other agencies.

"The New Yorker has just learned that a staff member erroneously made a derogatory assumption about ICE agent Justin Gaertner's tattoo," according to an email statement sent by the New Yorker. "The personal social-media accounts of staff members do not represent the magazine, and we in no way share the viewpoint expressed in this tweet. The tweet has been deleted, and we deeply regret any harm that this may have caused Mr. Gaertner."

Efforts to reach Lavin were unsuccessful.

In a tweet Monday afternoon, ICE officials denied the veteran Gaertner has any association with Nazis. It quotes Gaertner, a Marine who lost both legs to an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011, saying the tattoo is not an Iron Cross but a "Titan 2" design — the symbol of his platoon.

Gaertner has been featured in news stories about a public-private program to investigate pedophiles, called the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child-Rescue Corps or HERO.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman

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