Green Room

Creators Syndicate: No, we’re not “firing” an anti-Catholic columnist

posted at 12:41 pm on January 10, 2014 by

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:

It’s better to focus on and rebut the ignorance and bigotry, and then let that speak for itself in the marketplace.

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US News still has not publicly responded to the avalanche of criticism, but it should account publicly for that decision.

US News is just happy that people realize their still in business.

Bitter Clinger on January 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

In cases like these, speak with your wallet, or go to the companies that advertise for Useless News and World Distort. It wasn’t too long ago that conservatives on Twitter brought Wonkette to its knees after one of their writers made fun of Trig Palin for his Down’s Syndrome.

JimLennon on January 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

I don’t believe in this calls for firing BS and I’m a conservative Catholic. I would like to know why US News has not printed a correction to what is an obviously flawed column and would suggest they no longer commission work from such an incompetent.

Rocks on January 10, 2014 at 1:07 PM

“US News” – trying to fill the void left by “Newsweek”? :)

22044 on January 10, 2014 at 1:10 PM

USUseless News” – trying to fill the void left by “Newsweek News-weak” ? :)

22044 on January 10, 2014 at 1:10 PM

FIFY ;-)

JimLennon on January 10, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Should the consequence of being provocative for a living be termination when getting something wrong or going over the line on occasion?

Going over the line? Naw. It just shines a light on the offending party.

Getting something wrong? If no retraction or correction is forthcoming, Absolutely. (See: Rachel Maddow)

Mitoch55 on January 10, 2014 at 1:35 PM

I don’t think Creators should fire her, but US News should. Not because she wrote something provocative, but because she wrote something so full of wrong “facts”. Basically she failed some fundamental tenets of writing – whether you’re being provocative or not. I think Creators should fire her if she writes something so blatantly wrong for them.

Yes, bad/wrong free speech should be countered with more speech. Blah, blah, blah. Would you want a writer for Field & Stream to keep their job if they couldn’t even identify a mallard vs a goose? If they wrote an entire article about how great bear bow season is in June in Virginia, when it runs October-November, would you wonder what the heck the magazine was doing still employing them?

GWB on January 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM

In light of Phil Robertson it would be hypocritical to ask for her firing. However, just as gay activists will continue to point and accuse Phil Robertson it is appropriate to point and accuse Jamie Steihm’s bigotry.

hadsil on January 10, 2014 at 1:49 PM

In light of Phil Robertson it would be hypocritical to ask for her firing. However, just as gay activists will continue to point and accuse Phil Robertson it is appropriate to point and accuse Jamie Steihm’s bigotry.

hadsil on January 10, 2014 at 1:49 PM

I disagree. Again, it’s not that people disagree with what she said, it’s that she did such a lousy job as a writer to use factually wrong information (that could have been corrected with a minimal amount of research). If I write that “Bob said ‘X’” when he’s on record as having said the exact opposite of that, it’s not that we disagree, it’s that I’m *wrong*. I think that’s worth firing for in the realm of communications.

GWB on January 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

I think that’s worth firing for in the realm of communications.

GWB on January 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

It’s a defensible position. The better question, I think, is why anyone would put any trust in this writer’s product after such a shoddy piece of work, even apart from the bigotry. Columnists aren’t really on salary anyway, which is why I put “fired” in quotes. Why would the syndicator’s clients choose to publish Stiehm in the future after seeing the lack of intellectual rigor in this piece? But if they do, then I don’t blame Creators for carrying it.

Ed Morrissey on January 10, 2014 at 2:39 PM

But if she hadn’t been so wrong on the facts, it would have been harder to discredit her on the issues. Ergo, publish the rubbish to show it as rubbish!

tkmcp on January 10, 2014 at 3:09 PM

…CRUCIFY THEM!

KOOLAID2 on January 10, 2014 at 3:25 PM

The better question, I think, is why anyone would put any trust in this writer’s product after such a shoddy piece of work, even apart from the bigotry….. Why would the syndicator’s clients choose to publish Stiehm in the future after seeing the lack of intellectual rigor in this piece?

Ed Morrissey on January 10, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Well put, Ed. What I didn’t articulate as well as you did is the issue of credibility. If you can’t trust even the words the writer puts down – the ideas can always be debated – then you don’t want them on your team. (I’m discounting MSNBC here…. *eyeroll* )

GWB on January 10, 2014 at 3:58 PM

FIFY ;-)

JimLennon on January 10, 2014 at 1:22 PM

lol – I thought the quotes would work, but well done.

22044 on January 10, 2014 at 4:34 PM

ALL religious nut balls should be excluded from public office on the grounds of moral turpitude, criminal stupidity, being spineless followers and having a room temperature IQ.

Your Mamma loves me on January 10, 2014 at 8:44 PM

But if she hadn’t been so wrong on the facts, it would have been harder to discredit her on the issues. Ergo, publish the rubbish to show it as rubbish!

tkmcp on January 10, 2014 at 3:09 PM

As a Catholic – I am with you on this. Using Jamie Stiehm as a data point to support the notion that “anti-Catholic bigots are drooling morons” – and using her own writings to back up this thesis – is a useful thing.

It is great to have evidence that your “intellectual” rivals are stupid.

SubmarineDoc on January 10, 2014 at 8:49 PM

ALL religious nut balls should be excluded from public office on the grounds of moral turpitude, criminal stupidity, being spineless followers and having a room temperature IQ.

Your Mamma loves me on January 10, 2014 at 8:44 PM

I had just written about using the writing of anti-religious bigots to provide evidence to all the world that they are drooling morons, and along comes some more evidence of the same.

SubmarineDoc on January 10, 2014 at 8:59 PM

ALL religious nut balls should be excluded from public office on the grounds of moral turpitude, criminal stupidity, being spineless followers and having a room temperature IQ.

Your Mamma loves me on January 10, 2014 at 8:44 PM

Sounds amazingly like the followers of the Left in general, and Obama specifically.

Mitoch55 on January 10, 2014 at 9:39 PM

There is a marked difference between being merely provocative and expressing pure bigotry and hatred against a religion – since freedom of religion is not “just an opinion” in America-the threat is against a fundamental right.

If this were said say, against African-Americans or Gays, the response would have been much different.

Don L on January 11, 2014 at 8:21 AM

“Stiehm has no problem explicitly stating her bigotry against “Rome,” as she refers to the Catholic Church …”

Spoken like an old school Klansman and the beheading “Church of England”.
Prods and atheists can pound sand.
I wonder did the same bigots oppose JFK for the same reason? YES they DID!
As a Catholic school kid at the time, I remember it well.
Thuck Fem.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on January 11, 2014 at 12:13 PM

Yes, bad/wrong free speech should be countered with more speech. Blah, blah, blah. Would you want a writer for Field & Stream to keep their job if they couldn’t even identify a mallard vs a goose? If they wrote an entire article about how great bear bow season is in June in Virginia, when it runs October-November, would you wonder what the heck the magazine was doing still employing them?

GWB on January 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Well Said. Sadly, bigots and provocateurs sell Leftist rags and websites.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on January 11, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Write something anti-muslim. See how long you last.

Ronnie on January 11, 2014 at 1:36 PM

It’s better to focus on and rebut the ignorance and bigotry, and then let that speak for itself in the marketplace.

Actually, the best way to inculcate values against bigotry is to ensure that there are real repercussions for it. Indulging market fetishism every chance you get regardless of moral context is plain dumb. The “market” has previously allowed a European population to concentrate its fire on Jews before, which eventually culminated in this little-known event called the Holocaust.

It’s best to stamp this kind of garbage out ASAP.

Stoic Patriot on January 11, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Of course, as I go through life, I ask myself: WWALD — What Would a Liberal Do?

I think the answer is obvious from their previous acts:
a) They would rant at how bigoted the author was.
b) They would demand that the author apologize.
c) Even if the author did (b), they would call for the author to be fired.
d) They would call for a boycott of all media which carried said author.
e) If anyone refused to boycott the author, they would treat them as agreeing with, and being equivalent in bigotry to, said author.

Liberals would also quickly pivot to Rule #4 of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which is “Make your opponents live up to their own moral code of conduct.” as they sought the advantage in the debate.

So, with all of those points in mind, here’s my response:

I demand that this author be fired. Even if she apologizes, it’s obvious that she has deep seated bigotry issues and cannot be trusted to write anything which meets the high criteria people of our political persuasion attach to opinion. If you do not fire her, we will be boycotting both you and all of your advertisers. We will be contacting each advertiser and telling them that if they continue to underwrite said author, both you and they are complicit in her bigotry.

Surely you are not bigots, and would not support the kind of prejudice that this author has expressed for the adherents of a religion who comprise more than a quarter of all Americans. We have fought and died for America, have even served America as one of its most beloved Presidents, and have many patriotic members in all three branches of our Government. Hence, I respectfully request that you no longer offer this author a place to vent her venomous and venal villany.

unclesmrgol on January 12, 2014 at 12:56 AM

I would respect Creators’ position more if they syndicated writers who were as overtly and aggressively anti-islam as this one is anti-Catholic.

Adjoran on January 12, 2014 at 10:57 PM