Pittsburgh foundations, journalists call out Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for editorial defending Trump's 'Shithole Countries' remarks many have called racist | Blogh
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pittsburgh foundations, journalists call out Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for editorial defending Trump's 'Shithole Countries' remarks many have called racist

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 3:36 PM

click to enlarge Image affixed to the top of the local foundations' response
  • Image affixed to the top of the local foundations' response
Last week, in a tweet from its official Twitter account, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said its publisher John Block requested it remove President Donald Trump's "vulgar language" from the front page of its Jan. 12 edition. In case you forgot, during immigration-policy talks regarding Haiti, El Salvador and African nations last week, Trump reportedly said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? We should have more people from Norway.”

But sanitizing its front page wasn't the only thing the P-G has done in the wake of Trump's remarks, which many have deemed to be racist. Yesterday, on a day named for civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the P-G published an editorial claiming that "[c]alling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism."

"If the president had used the world 'hellhole' instead, would that have been racist?  If he had used the word 'failed states,' would that have been racist? But there are nations that are hellholes in this world. And there are failed states," the editorial says. "It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places and that we want some of the best people from the best places, many of which are inhabited by people of color. That’s not racism, it is reason."

Needless to say, many people in Pittsburgh, including a group of former P-G staffers, were not pleased with the editorial, especially in light of the timing. 

"The piece seeks to excuse President Trump’s disparaging remarks about nations of color, while also limiting the term 'racist' to the narrowest and most violent forms of the practice, as if it no longer exists," former P-G staffers wrote in a letter to the newspaper. "This is not the Post-Gazette we knew."

A response signed by leaders of the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation,  two organizations working to address inequalities in the city, called the editorial "a sorry pastiche of whitewashing drivel."

"It builds a straw-man argument that the term 'racist' is too often used to silence opponents, completely ignoring this President’s well-established pattern of repeatedly invoking race to divide the country and to attack his enemies," the response says. "A President who defends Nazis and white supremacists has described himself, as did his initial failure to deny the language from his immigration meeting and the reported glee his advisors took in 'tough language' they thought would play to the base. If you don’t want to be called a racist, don’t be racist. "

Some have long questioned whether P-G publisher Block's seemingly conservative political leanings have an impact on content in the newspaper. The editorial was also run in the Toledo Blade, another newspaper owned by Block, on Sat., Jan. 13.

Here's the full text of the P-G staffers' letter:

As former Post-Gazette staff members, we are writing to express our anger at the content, tone and timing of Monday’s editorial.

The piece seeks to excuse President Trump’s disparaging remarks about nations of color, while also limiting the term “racist” to the narrowest and most violent forms of the practice, as if it no longer exists.

This is not the Post-Gazette we knew.

As a group, our personal politics and worldviews were often at odds. Newspapers are not a place for a single brand of personality or intellect. But we all shared the core values of journalism: fairness, accuracy, careful thought, and common decency.

An editorial saying, “so what” to a president referring to African countries as “shitholes,” and suggesting that the definition of racism be confined to the likes of racist mass-murderer Dylann Roof or segregationist sheriff Bull Connor, who set police dogs on civil rights demonstrators, basically surrenders the cause of civil rights.

Racism is more than overt violence. It is the systematic degradation of people through practices and institutions that are so pervasive we cease to recognize them in our own lives. It is dismissing a politician’s horrible remarks as “coarse” but meaningless, when words are the very tools of governance. It is suggesting that racist is an invalid term unless someone has met a standard so narrow that it excuses discrimination that is little more than apartheid without the violence.

Notably, racism is also saying these things in print, in a major newspaper, on Martin Luther King Day.
UPDATE

Earlier today, the executive committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh sent a letter to the editor to the P-G, decrying the editorial.

"We feel the editorial was repugnant and we are appalled and humiliated by it,” Michael A. Fuoco, president of the Guild, told Pittsburgh City Paper. “No guild employees had anything to do with it. We respect the marketplace of ideas however when racism and bigotry invade that marketplace, we have to take a stand and to let people know that we are against that editorial. It represents the feelings of the Block family, the owners of this newspaper. We’ve been in business for 231 years now and during that time we’ve been known for fighting racism.”

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