October 19, 2016
Conservative newspaper faces threats after endorsing Clinton; responds in the classiest way possible
by Julia Fleischaker
Two weeks ago, the editorial board at the Arizona Republic took a stand that had been a year in the making. For the first time in its more than 125 years of existence, the paper endorsed a Democrat for President.
We made our choice soberly. We knew it would be unpopular with many people. We knew that, although we had clearly stated our objections to Trump, it would be a big deal for a conservative editorial board in a conservative state to break ranks from the party.
We chose patriotism over party. We endorsed the Democrat.
They couldn’t have imagined the vitriol that would be thrown their way. I’ll let the words of Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the Arizona Republic, speak for themselves, as she’s far more eloquent than most of us would be in the face of:
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.
Spitting at and threatening the kids delivering papers (seriously?):
To those of you who have spit on, threatened with violence, screamed at and bullied the young people going door-to-door selling subscriptions, I give you those dozens of young men and women themselves. Many sell subscriptions to work their way through school. Most were too frightened to share even their first names here. But they are still on the job. They know that free speech is part of a society that values hard work and equal opportunity.
Calls for the paper to be burned down:
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.
Threats against immigrants:
To those of you who said we should go live with the immigrants we love so much, and who threatened violence against people who look or speak a different way, I give you Jobe Couch.
He was the Army cultural attache and Alabama professor who sponsored my aunts and my mother when they arrived in America from Korea after World War II. There are dozens of descendants of his kindness. Citizens with college degrees, a dentist, lawyers, engineers, pastors, teachers, business owners, a Marine, a publisher and more. Uncle Jobe stood for the power of America as a melting pot. He taught me that one kind man can make a difference.
That’s not to say the response was all angry. Parrish offers her gratitude to readers who agreed with their choice, thanked them for their courage, or just agreed with their right to endorse a candidate of their choosing.
In an utter hellscape of an election year, the emergence of some fantastic, brave journalism has been a rare bright spot. And not a moment too soon. Again, I’ll let Parrish do the talking:
To all of you who asked why we endorsed—or what right we had to do so—I give you my mother. She grew up under an occupying dictatorship, with no right to an education, no free press, no freedom of religion, no freedom to assemble peaceably, no right to vote. No right to free speech. She raised a journalist who understood not to take these rights for granted.
Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.