Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh said they are “saddened and humiliated” by an editorial published on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed” has also faced criticism from former Post-Gazette staff members, major foundations in Pittsburgh, and family members of the paper’s publisher, who have called the editorial a defense of racist rhetoric by President Donald Trump’s.
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents 150 current employees of the Post-Gazette, submitted a letter to the editor objecting to the editorial. Guild President Michael Fuoco said that it was rejected by the paper’s publisher, John Robinson Block, and will not be published.
“We wanted to give the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, our employer, first right of refusal, and he refused because apparently only his opinion is worthy of being printed on the editorial page,” Fuoco said.
Block is also the head of the paper’s editorial board.
The Guild historically has not commented on editorials or op-ed pieces according to Fuoco, who said he’s never encountered a similar situation, but that “as journalists, as human beings, we’d be remiss not to speak.”
The editorial states that those who call Trump “racist” are not furthering the immigration debate, and should reserve the word for people like Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine people at a Charleston, S.C. church in 2015.
Fuoco said the piece was “intellectually dishonest. It promotes racism and bigotry … As journalists we speak truth to power in our daily course of business, and John Robinson Block … they don’t get a pass. So if our training, our experience, and our talent is to speak truth to power, we’re going to do that, and in this case, we had to do that where we work."
Fuoco said he doesn’t know if readers differentiate between the editorial page and news articles, and that editorials don’t necessarily reflect the views of the staff.
Members of Block’s family are also decrying the editorial. Sixteen friends and family members of John Robinson Block co-signed a letter published in the Post-Gazette Thursday, stating that the piece violates the paper’s legacy of fighting for civil rights.
John Block is the nephew of William Block Sr., who lead the paper for nearly 60 years and who his family said was "an advocate for civil rights and freedom of the press."
“We do not condone the sentiments expressed in the piece. We do not condone the whitewashing of racism, nor the normalization of it,” states the letter. “We cannot remain silent and by implication approve of the use of the Post-Gazette to provide cover for racism.”
Members of the Block family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.