Pen is mightier

A newspaper got death threats for endorsing Hillary Clinton. Its response was incredible.

Arizona Republic/Newseum

Last month, when The Arizona Republic endorsed Hillary Clinton for president—the conservative 126-year-old newspaper’s first-ever endorsement for a Democrat—the endorsement made national waves. Clinton, the paper’s editorial board wrote, had “the temperament and experience to be president,” while Donald Trump displayed a “stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect.”

Predictably, the endorsement made many of the Republic’s readers angry. And following the publication of the editorial, the newspaper and its staff were barraged by outraged threats and insults Anonymous callers threatened to kill its reporters and burn down its office. Staffers were called “hacks and losers.” Young people who go door-to-door selling Republic subscriptions were threatened, spit on, and screamed at. One reader wrote: “YOU SHOULD BE PUT IN FRONT OF A FIRING SQUAD AS A TRAITOR.”

Today, the Republic‘s publisher, Mi-Ai Parrish, responded to the threats in a front-page statement. In the statement, Parrish defended the Clinton endorsement, saying it was a choice of “patriotism over party.”

She then sent a message to the people who had made vile threats against her and her paper’s staffers, using the biographies of those staffers as examples of their bravery:

To the anonymous caller who invoked the name of Don Bolles — he’s the Republic reporter who was assassinated by a car bomb 40 years ago — and threatened that more of our reporters would be blown up because of the endorsement, I give you Kimberly. She is the young woman who answered the phone when you called. She sat in my office and calmly told three Phoenix police detectives what you had said. She told them that later, she walked to church and prayed for you. Prayed for patience, for forgiveness. Kimberly knows free speech requires compassion.

To those who said we should be shut down, burned down, who said they hoped we would cease to exist under a new presidential administration, I give you Nicole. She is our editor who directs the news staff, independent of our endorsements. After your threats, Nicole put on her press badge and walked with her reporters and photographers into the latest Donald Trump rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz. She stood as Trump encouraged his followers to heckle and boo and bully journalists. Then she came back to the newsroom to ensure our coverage was fair. Nicole knows free speech requires an open debate.

To those of you who have said that someone who disagrees with you deserves to be punished, I give you Phil. Our editorial page editor is a lifelong Republican, a conservative and a patriot. He was an early voice of reason, arguing calmly that Donald Trump didn’t represent the values of the party he loves. Phil understands that free speech sometimes requires bravery.

Parrish then invoked her own family, and told the story of her mother, a Korean immigrant who arrived in America after World War II, and “raised a journalist who understood not to take [America’s] rights for granted.” And in closing, Parrish referred to an inscription of the First Amendment on the wall of the Republic‘s office.

The Republic‘s courageous statement is worth reading in full. And given that almost every major American newspaper has endorsed Clinton over Trump, it’s safe to assume that the Republic isn’t the only newsroom receiving death threats and hate mail from angry Trump supporters these days.

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