When conservative columnist Stacy Washington questioned an editorial comparing the NRA to ISIS, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suspended her.
This feature appears in the July ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
Leftists and so-called progressives don’t hide their hatred of guns and people who own them. This “NRA Derangement Syndrome”—a type of hysteria—appears to affect newsroom personnel at media outlets across the country. The result is a pervasively leftist slant in newspaper and media coverage of anything having to do with the National Rifle Association, its members and gun owners. Sadly, this has become the standard unless you’re consuming news via an outlet that is openly conservative.
Nowhere is this slant so obvious as on the pages of print news outlets. The largest newspapers have great sports reporting and good coverage of local stories, but if you peruse the opinion pages there can be no doubt: The editorial board is on the left.
This has been my experience as a local freelance opinion editorial columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For the past six months, I’ve written on many local topics and a few national ones. In researching news for that column, I’m rarely outraged. Enter Missouri State University Journalism School professor (emeritus) George Kennedy. A regular guest opinion columnist for the Columbia Missourian, Kennedy made national news by comparing—in quite a stupendously ridiculous fashion—the NRA to the Islamic State.
Upon reading his assertion that “we love our guns more than we love our children,” I was compelled to write about this spurious comparison and the obvious editorial malpractice that permitted the approval of such copy without so much as a rebuttal. My relationship with the Post-Dispatch was an “at will,” independent-contract freelance arrangement. As such, I had no company email address or access to its website, stltoday.com. The editorial process arranged by opinion editor Tod Robberson had an easy sequence: Submit the column via email, answer any questions from him with links to support the assertions, then final edited copy would be emailed back to me. That copy would then be moved to the print edition as well as an early morning posting to the website.
(George Kennedy) will never be held to account or asked to prove that NRA members dismember, set on fire or otherwise terrorize politicians—or anyone else, for that matter.It occurred to me that the topic of that week’s column, which was renamed “Guns and the media” by Robberson, might be my first rejected column. The Post-Dispatch had the option every week not to print my submission, and if they did so, they were not required to pay for the work. Robberson did point out that I should have included the fact that in addition to 7 percent of news staff claiming Republican affiliation in a 2013 Indiana University survey, another 28 percent claimed no affiliation at all. Interestingly, I had no quibble with what he said, other than that it audaciously made my point—93 percent of news staffs across the country assert they are not Republicans.
That Thursday I traveled to the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Atlanta. I left my laptop at home as I was not planning to work at all: This was a treat for me, as I had last attended the Annual Meetings in 2011 when they were hosted in St. Louis. On Friday afternoon I was taking a breather from walking the 15 acres of guns and accessories on the floor of the Georgia World Congress Center when an email notice of suspension caught my eye.
“Stacy, I’m afraid I have to suspend your column. You did not disclose in your column published today that you served multiple times as a co-host and commentator on ‘Cam & Company’ on NRATV. Today’s column was problematic in many ways, some of which I described in my email to you on Thursday. But advocating for the NRA while failing to disclose that you did media work on behalf of this lobbying organization and its official television station goes far beyond the bounds of any acceptable journalistic standard.” Robberson then went on to explain that it didn’t matter if I was “paid or not.”
His assertions have a few problems of their own. On two separate occasions, once before the start of my column and again in January of this year, articles describing my participation in an NRA documentary appeared in the Post-Dispatch. My bio and online social media accounts all state that I am a fourth-generation veteran, gun owner, Second Amendment supporter and NRA member.
Besides, does my appearance as a guest host for “Cam & Company” on a few occasions make the NRA-ISIS comparison valid? Is there any way that my work as a pundit can be used to prove what I wrote is untrue? As an opinion writer, it doesn’t matter: My opening column for the Post-Dispatch outlined my right-leaning political viewpoint including my support of the Second Amendment: “With my father on active duty, guns were always a part of my life, so I consider the Second Amendment second only in importance to the religious protections afforded to us in the Constitution.” I had certainly made Robberson and Post-Dispatch readers aware of my affiliations.
Interestingly, Robberson doesn’t apply the same standard to his own writing. In his March 27, 2017, column titled “Demonizing allies is no way to advance the progressive cause,” he writes of those who would label his paper as “racist and defenders of the establishment”: “If they would stop and calmly read our editorials, they would recognize that we are fighting for exactly the same causes—racial equity, uplifting the poor, reducing crime and fixing the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. We also are fighting for full accountability by our elected officials.”
Robberson goes on a bit later to fully confirm his progressive credentials: “Where we part ways with the progressives is the method of achieving progress.” So the only Americans that are working to uplift the poor and reduce crime are progressives? Got it. At least he is being honest about the entire paper’s commitment to the tenets of progressivism.
But why didn’t Robberson admit that the progressives have been in charge of the city of St. Louis for 68 years of uninterrupted rule? This is an inconvenient truth in light of the troubled neighborhoods, racial inequality, downtrodden poor and crime infested streets directly at their own doorstep.
As an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News writing of the Susan G. Komen decision to stop donating to Planned Parenthood, he gave a similar type of siren call to abortion supporters: “Komen caved to political pressure,” he said, adding, “The next time Komen for the Cure comes asking us for an editorial supporting one of their local events, I’m going to think twice.” So during his time as an editorial writer, Robberson openly supported abortion rights by threatening to refuse to cover Komen Race for the Cure events based on their decision not to donate to his pet cause—Planned Parenthood. Apparently the standards are different depending upon which side of the political aisle one occupies.
Week after week, year after year, the subscriber base of the St. LouisPost-Dispatch has declined. Robberson attempted to balance the paper by adding my obviously conservative voice. But I’m as out and open with my beliefs as one can possibly be, which may account for the need to get rid of my column. Unfortunately, however, the nastiness was not to end there. After being informed that I was at no time compensated for my appearances on NRA radio and TV, Robberson still permitted publishing of a letter to the editor accusing me of being a paid shill of the NRA. And in his announcement of the end of my column, he slandered my ethics by claiming I was dismissed “for failing to disclose [my] promotional work and professional affiliation with the NRA.”
My column was factual: It called out media bias and asked for introspection in media outlets for the sake of preserving printed newspapers.In the media furor surrounding this story, my original call has been almost lost—that Kennedy was permitted to malign the NRA and its membership, and retains the opportunity to do so since he has received no reprimand for his awful and baseless comparison. He will never be held to account or asked to prove that NRA members dismember, set on fire or otherwise terrorize politicians—or anyone else, for that matter. However, his editor did add a disclaimer in a text box above his column. Thank goodness for that.
The final paragraph of my column called for introspection in newsrooms across this country, because the printed word is powerful. As internet news becomes more dominant, newspapers will have to return to their original charter of excellent unbiased reporting in order to win and maintain a loyal paying readership. If conservative voices are cast out under unfair, unethical bias claims, that cannot happen.
My column was factual: It called out media bias and asked for introspection in media outlets for the sake of preserving printed newspapers. The irony of having my column suspended—under the guise of my being a paid advocate for the NRA—for writing that is unjustifiable nonsense, which is what prompted me to terminate the contract with the Post-Dispatch. The distraction that has ensued over who pays me and why has served its purpose for those at the top of the food chain in the newspaper industry: No one is discussing their failure to remain neutral. Consequently, circulation numbers will continue to tumble. Bravo, Post-Dispatch.
I announced the suspension and my termination of the contract on Twitter using a meme of a black AR-15 with the caption, “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?” Most people got the irony, but a scant few thought I was actually asserting a racial bias claim against the Post-Dispatch. There is a bias there, but it isn’t against blacks—it’s against conservative thought and opinion that supports the Second Amendment.
Progressives must shut down conservative voices because when we speak, the truth of their failure to actualize real change for their victim groups becomes painfully evident. We can’t have inner-city blacks coming to realize that gun control means only the criminals have guns.
Yeah, it probably is better to keep those facts off the news pages, even if it means going out of business. American newsrooms are in a state of crisis, inadequate to the task of responding to internet-driven news’ increasing dominance. Print media must transform to meet the challenge, but can it do so blindfolded?
No matter what happens to newspapers, our discussions surrounding the Second Amendment and gun ownership by citizens should never be intertwined with incendiary rhetoric that has no purpose other than to slander law-abiding Americans.
In the meantime, a powerful blow to the credibility of the news media exists in the continued display of this blatant double standard: Even though Kennedy’s editor added a disclaimer in a text box over his awful column abusing the NRA, Kennedy still writes for the Columbia Missourian.
Stacy Washington is a decorated Air Force veteran, Emmy-nominated TV personality and host of nationally syndicated radio program “Stacy on the Right,” based in St. Louis. She loves God, guns, and is a member of the NRA, obviously.