Creators Syndicate: No, we’re not “firing” an anti-Catholic columnist
posted at 12:41 pm on January 10, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
The saga of anti-Catholic columnist Jamie Stiehm continued last night when her syndicator balked at a demand from the Catholic League to fire her over the US News piece that appeared on Tuesday. Stiehm’s rant about a temporary stay on enforcement from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor demonstrated a staggering amount of bigotry and ignorance on the law, religious expression, and Thomas Jefferson, but as Creators Syndicate managing editor David Yontz responds, it didn’t get published through the syndicator (via Amy Alkon):
Though Ms. Stiehm writes a weekly syndicated opinion column for Creators Syndicate, this particular column was not written for or released by Creators. It was written for U.S. News & World Report.
As three members of your board of advisers — Brent Bozell, Linda Chavez and Lawrence Kudlow — also are syndicated by Creators, I’m sure you will not accuse the company of being anti-Catholic.
We at Creators believe in a free press, and we syndicate writers with all types of opinions, many of which are offensive to various groups. We encourage open and vigorous debate.
Creators Syndicate has no intention of dropping Ms. Stiehm because of this U.S. News & World Report column, just as Creators has refused to drop Brent Bozell, for example — among other Catholic writers — when his critics have demanded that we cancel his column.
This raises a good point, albeit in an extreme fashion. Opinion writers are hired to express their opinions, and usually for their ability to express provocative ideas that generate controversy. Not too many columnists will make a living writing each week that consists of pointing out the cute and cuddly qualities of puppies and small children, after all.
Should the consequence of being provocative for a living be termination when getting something wrong or going over the line on occasion? I’d argue for no, even in the case of Jamie Stiehm, although that is a case that mightily tests this argument. Stiehm has no problem explicitly stating her bigotry against “Rome,” as she refers to the Catholic Church, and in the piece in question implied that Catholics are unfit for public office as insufficiently independent of the Vatican (and therefore presumably insufficiently American). This kind of argument appears in other quarters aimed at Jews perhaps more often than Catholics these days, but it’s a recognizably regurgitated form of Know-Nothingism, a thoroughly discredited thread of hate-based political thought from the mid-19th century.
That, however, doesn’t let US News off the hook for the decision to run this piece in particular. The essay is filled with both blatant anti-Catholic bigotry and ignorance — ignorance of law, ignorance of the case at hand, an inability to Google the actual organization that represents Catholic bishops in the US, and most laughably completely misrepresents Jefferson and his historical record. Any editor reading this piece should have known better than to approve it for publication on the first read. US News still has not publicly responded to the avalanche of criticism, but it should account publicly for that decision.
In the end, I agree with Yontz’ position here, even when the writer in question is obviously unremorseful for her bigotry and ignorance. It’s better to have that demonstration available in order to address it than it is to keep setting a precedent of firing people hired to provoke for being provocative. On the other hand, once this kind of effluvium is out in public view, it says something about those who later seek to publish such a writer — which is another good argument for letting the market decide.
Update: I appreciate the kind acknowledgment of this post by David Yontz, and also include this thought from Popehat:
Calls for firing someone over very stupid expression often obscure useful dialogue how how stupid the expression was. http://t.co/C317LUbi7l
— Popehat (@Popehat) January 10, 2014
It’s better to focus on and rebut the ignorance and bigotry, and then let that speak for itself in the marketplace.