'The Arizona Republic' Receives Threats After Endorsing Clinton
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
When The Arizona Republic endorsed a Democrat for president for the first time in its more than 125-year history, the newspaper didn't just get angry responses. They got death threats. So the paper's publisher, Mi-Ai Parrish, responded in an essay that has now gone viral. In it, she spoke directly to people who made the threats and described how her colleagues responded.
MI-AI PARRISH: To the anonymous caller who invoked the name of Don Bolles - he's the Republic reporter who was assassinated by a car bomb 40 years ago - and threatened that more of our reporters would be blown up because of the endorsement, I give you Kimberly.
She's the young woman who answered the phone when you called. She sat in my office and calmly told Phoenix police detectives what you'd said. She told them that later she walked to church and she prayed for you, prayed for patience, for forgiveness. Kimberly knows free speech requires compassion.
MCEVERS: Mi-Ai Parrish also wrote about Phil, the editorial page editor, a lifelong Republican who says Trump doesn't represent the party's values, and Dennis, a reporter who uncovered mistreatment at the VA and who she says understands that free speech is sometimes the only way to hold the powerful accountable. I asked Parrish why she wrote the essay.
PARRISH: The death threats initially - I would not have written about the death threats. Those were just something that happened and that's what we deal with. And we talked to the police. And we increased security. And our folks in the news room, our journalists understand that that's part of what we do. But when they started to threaten people outside of the news room - people who are in finance and advertising, crew kids going door-to-door who are just doing their jobs. And they're spitting on them and threatening them and sending us messages that they're going to shut them down. And they're going to pour boiling water on them and sic their dogs on them.
There's something different about that. You know, that's just beyond the pale. And that isn't the America that I know. I found it really appalling that people would threaten to harm you or kill you for expressing an opinion. And I just felt it was really important to stand up and talk about that.
MCEVERS: Did you intend for the people who've sent the threats to read this piece? Or were you sort of aiming it for the broader electorate or both?
PARRISH: Certainly I'm answering them. And that was where it began. It's OK if you disagree with me. It's OK if you're mad. And I understand that. And that's part of it because democracy's messy. And I will defend your right to call me bad names. But it was different this time. And I felt that something needed to be said.
MCEVERS: And now of course the article has been shared a lot on social media. It's...
PARRISH: Right, right, you asked about the audiences. And I mean I was answering them. But you know, more in a - if you happen to read this, that's fine. This is what I have to say to you because how do you respond to someone who says I think you should be put in front of a firing squad or, you know, killed as a traitor, some pretty awful things? And some very specific threats were made, like, we know where you live. We're going to firebomb your house. We know what you drive. We're going to bomb your car.
But it was also in a broader sense about what does this mean about America and the state of our democracy and the state of civil discourse and an understanding of the rights and freedoms that we all have and should cherish? And it was also to my staff, of whom I am very proud of how brave and strong and resilient and compassionate they've been in this. You know, they have not struck back. They have not - you know, they have done their job. And they are respectful of the job. And they respect other people's rights to have a disagreement with them. You know, they are just heroes. And I think as it turns out, you know, there were all sorts of other audiences out there who wanted to hear what I had to say.
MCEVERS: Mi-Ai Parrish, president of The Arizona Republic and Republic Media, thank you very much.
PARRISH: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.