Editor Who Dropped Coulter Column Describes Strong Backlash

By: E&P Staff

Last week, at least seven daily newspapers around the country announced that they had decide to drop Ann Coulter’s column in the wake of her latest offensive comment, a reference to former Sen. John Edwards in which she used the term “faggot.” An eighth paper has now cut the column: The Herald and Review in Decatur, Ill.

Another paper, The State Journal Register in Springfield, Ill., is weighing that move and is asking readers to weigh in — and has been swamped with pro and con responses.

Coulter’s syndicate, Universal, has said it has no plans to drop her.

One of the first to announce its move was the Mountain Press in Sevierville, Tenn. In a column today, its editor, Stan Voit, explains, “I’ve been a newspaperman for most of the last 35 years. But I admit I have never encountered anything like the reaction to this paper dropping Ann Coulter’s column. You’d have thought we came out against Christmas or SEC football.”

In all, the piece announcing the paper’s decision drew over 250 comments, with most of them coming from outside the area. The first posted comment on Voit’s piece today, however, was positive.

Excerpts from Voit’s column today follows.

From the start I began hearing it from Democrats and Republicans who object to her style and tone. I defended her and our decision to carry her column in the face of a lot of heat generated by those in both parties locally who didn’t want her column in their hometown paper.

As I read her column each week to get it formatted for publication, I became more and more bothered by her incendiary one-liners, the lack of depth in her commentary. Her column seemed more about getting cheap laughs than offering analysis. And it was mean-spirited, not insightful. In short, I was becoming troubled about her column. I also knew about her history of nasty one-liners directed at World Trade Center widows, Muslims and even the city of Boston.

When she used the term “faggot” in making a joke about John Edwards, that was the proverbial last straw for me. I made the decision to cancel her column. My boss and publisher, Jana Thomasson, agreed….

More than 250 people have posted comments on our Web site. Nothing with which I have ever been associated has generated nearly that much response. At first the posts supported our decision. The last couple of days the comments have run heavily against it. Those who dislike our decision range from people who merely disagree to those who threaten to cancel their subscriptions and never read us again, to those who use the most vile, hate-filled language to criticize us, calling us everything from a commie rag to a left-wing paper and worse. By the way, most of those whom posted comments or e-mailed comments opposed to us dropping the column don’t live here and presumably have never seen or held our paper.

Many Sevier County people have called and e-mailed supporting our decision. But most who have responded oppose what we did….

Some have tried to make this a First Amendment, free-speech issue. It’s not. We publish five national columnists a week, which means dozens more, from Jesse Jackson to Cal Thomas, are not printed on this page. We are not censoring the others or violating their First Amendment rights. We simple choose not to pay to run them. By the way we paid $5 a week for Ann Coulter’s column – probably what she makes a second when she gives a speech. She has her own Web site. If you want to read her column, you’ll be able to.

Some have written to say “faggot” isn’t such a bad word. I disagree. We have to treat each other with more respect and dignity than that. That’s also good advice for some of those who have responded to what we did.

We are the same conservative, small-town newspaper we were last week when we ran her column. Judge us by how we cover local news, by our own editorials, by our advertising and classifieds and school pictures and honor rolls and the same things that make community newspapers like ours such a part of people’s lives. Don’t judge us by one national columnist whose column ran once a week. She no more reflects our philosophy than do Mark Shields and Richard Reeves, our liberal national columnists.

I hope those who threaten to stop reading us will reconsider. We need all of you to keep poking your finger in our eye when we stray from what you think we ought to be. The only way you can do that is to keep reading us and holding us accountable.

I never wanted to be the story. I just want to put out a great community newspaper and do what I think is right, which is all one can do.

I hope I’m done talking about Ann Coulter. But I wanted you to know more about why we did what we did.

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