When the Arizona Republic endorsed Hillary Clinton as its first ever Democratic candidate for president, the paper was met with angry calls, cancelled subscriptions and death threats. In an op-ed this morning, publisher Mi-Ai Parrish recounted some of those threats, which included statements like “You’re dead. Watch your back,” “we will burn you down” and “you should be put in front of a firing squad as a traitor.” She described someone who called in and “invoked the name of Don Bolles,” an Arizona Republic reporter murdered four decades ago by a car bomb because of his investigative reporting, “and threatened that more of our reporters would be blown up because of the endorsement.”
“What is the response?” Parrish asks, before going on to deliver a perfect one, invoking two major themes: the first amendment, and the people behind the Republic who have had to deal with hate-filled invective in the aftermath of the paper’s endorsement.
Among them was Kimberly, the woman who had taken the call about Bolles. “She sat in my office and calmly told three Phoenix police detectives what you had said. She told them that later, she walked to church and prayed for you. Prayed for patience, for forgiveness. Kimberly knows free speech requires compassion,” writes Parrish.
There was editorial director Phil Boas. “To those of you who have said that someone who disagrees with you deserves to be punished, I give you Phil,” writes Parrish. “Our editorial page editor is a lifelong Republican, a conservative and a patriot. He was an early voice of reason, arguing calmly that Donald Trump didn’t represent the values of the party he loves. Phil understands that free speech sometimes requires bravery.”
And Parrish, who was named publisher in 2015, tells her and her family’s story as well, a quintessentially American one:
To those of you who said we should go live with the immigrants we love so much, and who threatened violence against people who look or speak a different way, I give you Jobe Couch.
He was the Army cultural attache and Alabama professor who sponsored my aunts and my mother when they arrived in America from Korea after World War II. There are dozens of descendants of his kindness. Citizens with college degrees, a dentist, lawyers, engineers, pastors, teachers, business owners, a Marine, a publisher and more. Uncle Jobe stood for the power of America as a melting pot. He taught me that one kind man can make a difference.
You can, and should, read the full response here.