(AP) The Daily Courier, circulation 16,987, has fired a columnist who wrote about President Bush “hiding in a Nebraska hole” instead of returning to Washington immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Dan Guthrie said Publisher Dennis Mack fired him from his job as columnist and copy editor because of negative reaction to his Sept. 15 “Dogwatch” column. Mack denied the column was the reason for the dismissal but declined to elaborate, saying it was a private personnel matter.
In the column, Guthrie wrote that Bush “skedaddled” after the attacks. “Most of his aides and Cabinet members split for secret locations, too.”
Guthrie wrote that the airline passengers whose struggle with hijackers is believed to have led to its crash in Pennsylvania “are the heroes of this rotten week. They put it all on the line. Against their courage the picture of Bush hiding in a Nebraska hole becomes an embarrassment.”
Guthrie noted that Bush’s spokesman told reporters the administration had evidence that the White House had been a terrorist target, and that the president was following accepted emergency procedures. But he called those explanations “feeble excuses.”
After receiving hundreds of letters criticizing the column, the newspaper ran an editorial by Editor Dennis Roler apologizing to readers.
“Criticism of our chief executive and those around him needs to be responsible and appropriate,” Roller wrote. “Labeling him and the nation’s other top leaders as cowards as the United States tries to unite after its bloodiest terrorist attack ever isn’t responsible or appropriate.”
Guthrie had also run into trouble for a New Year’s 1998 column in which he predicted the Seven Feathers Casino would change its name to the Single Finger. The casino’s Indian owners were angered by the reference and, rather than apologize, Guthrie stopped writing the column. He had resumed it this January.