OUCH: Look What Happened to AZ Newspaper After if Endorsed Clinton

The subscription cancellations were coming every 10 minutes. Angry readers have been calling in droves. One caller issued a death threat.

“We’re feeling the weight of our history,” Phil Boas, the editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Until it endorsed Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, the newspaper, founded in 1890, had never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president.

In endorsing Mrs. Clinton, The Republic’s editorial was, by any interpretation, scathing toward her opponent, Donald J. Trump. “Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads,” the editorial says at one point. “That’s beneath our national dignity.”

“Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes,” the editorial added. “They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern.”

The newspaper is not the first this year to break with its long tradition of endorsing Republicans for president. The Dallas Morning News, which had not supported a Democrat for president since before World War II, and The Cincinnati Enquirer, which has endorsed Republicans for nearly 100 years, have backed Mrs. Clinton. The Houston Chronicle, which has in the past endorsed a Democrat for president but which typically supports Republicans, eschewed Mr. Trump in July, long before endorsements are generally published in an election year.

The papers lay out different reasons for supporting Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump — his lack of political experience versus her established political career, his outbursts and insults versus her steadiness — and some are perhaps more repudiations of Mr. Trump than glowing endorsements of Mrs. Clinton, whose faults are also cited.

“Any one of Trump’s less than sterling qualities — his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance — is enough to be disqualifying,” the editorial board of The Houston Chronicle wrote.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, which endorsed Mrs. Clinton last week, put it particularly bluntly: “Trump is a clear and present danger to our country.”

For some readers, however, the endorsements proved a step too far. “Certainly, we’ve paid a price for our presidential recommendation,” Mike Wilson, the editor of The Dallas Morning News, told Poynter this month.

Mr. Boas of The Arizona Republic said he expected “a lot of cancellations,” pointing to cancellations at The Cincinnati Enquirer, which like The Republic, is owned by Gannett.

But he said financial considerations were “never a factor” for the newspaper’s nine-person editorial board. “It was more of a curiosity,” he said. “We know we’re doing the right thing. We feel very good about this decision.”

The endorsement of Mrs. Clinton would probably not have come as a surprise to the paper’s faithful readers, he said. The paper had already written several cautionary editorials about Mr. Trump, including one last November, when a black protester was beaten at one of Mr. Trump’s rallies in Birmingham, Ala. It also ran an editorial after Mr. Trump mocked a New York Times reporter with a disability.

“Trump through the primary and into the general did a half dozen things that we believe would have been disqualifiers in years past,” Mr. Boas said. “We think that we are being traditionalists here. We’re saying we’re not willing to compromise our values.”

The decision to endorse a Democrat, however, was not taken lightly. The newspaper did not have a record of its endorsements, and it hired a researcher to determine when it had last supported a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican. A historian was brought on to review the researcher’s work. When they found out the paper had never endorsed a Democrat, Mr. Boas said, “It was a real surprise.”

But in the end, he said, the editorial board’s decision was not contentious. “We’re never in unison on anything, but it wasn’t a difficult thing,” Mr. Boas said. “It was the kind of thing that just evolved over time.”

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