Feb. 22, 2018 – The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh broke with an 84-year precedent in January to decry an editorial that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Martin Luther King Day.
“As a matter of course, the Guild does not weigh in on editorial positions, but this piece is so extraordinary in its mindless, sycophantic embrace of racist values and outright bigotry espoused by this country’s President that we would be morally, journalistically, and humanly remiss not to speak out against it,” the local wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor.
The paper refused to publish the union’s letter, so the union posted it on social media where it generated extensive media interest, more than 5,000 retweets and more than 900 Facebook shares.
“Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism,” the editorial said. “There are nations that are hellholes … It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places.” Calling the president a racist is simply an attempt “to delegitimize a legitimately elected president,” the editorial asserted.
The goal of the Post-Gazette’s editorial was “to provide cover for and support of Donald Trump’s bemoaning that Haiti and African countries were ‘shithole’ places of origin for many immigrants,” local President Michael Fuoco wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review.
The union’s letter called the editorial “a blight on the 231 years of service the Post-Gazette has provided its readers.”
“Over its long life, it has railed against racism and supported civil rights and justice for all. Given this history, the shameful and unconscionable editorial that ran on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, of all days, is an abomination that cannot go without condemnation from journalists committed to fairness, accuracy and decency,” it said.
The Guild wanted the public to know that its members didn’t support the editorial, which he said represented the “racist leanings” of publisher John Robinson Block. “This was not an editorial supporting President Trump’s tax bill, for example, about which we might disagree but wouldn’t publicly challenge. This editorial was an outright call for racism,” Fuoco wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review.
The Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation also condemned the editorial, as did a group of former Post-Gazette staffers, members of the Block family and numerous individuals.
Photo: The Post-Gazette newsroom. Credit: Michael A. Fuoco.