The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a daily newspaper in Florida, was forced to issue an apology and retract a column defending the Proud Boys, a violent white nationalist group, following public outrage and a revelation that the author is married to a member of the extremist organization.
In a message to readers from executive editor Jennifer Orsi on Monday, the paper admitted that the guest column did not meet its editorial standards despite running Sunday in print and online.
The opinion page should not “provide a forum for support of the Proud Boys, an extremist group that promotes white nationalist views and which has been labeled a terrorist group by two countries and has top members under indictment on charges of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack,” Orsi wrote.
“To do so is antithetical to our values as an organization and is outside of our responsibility to provide a fair forum for different points of view,” she continued.
The guest column ran with the headline “Attacking Proud Boys does disservice to caring parents” and was a rebuttal to a previous column calling on the Sarasota County School Board to condemn the Proud Boys. In the deleted column, author Melissa Radovich wrote: “When I think about the Proud Boys, I think of fathers, business owners and veterans. These fathers have spoken at many School Board meetings. They are concerned about the direction that their local schools are heading in, and I commend them for coming to School Board meetings.”
Notably, the column did not disclose that Radovich is married to a member of the Proud Boys ― something journalists at other outlets quickly discovered and revealed on Twitter.
Orsi wrote Monday that the Herald-Tribune decided to give Radovich a platform because the previous column condemning the Proud Boys criticized her and “an editor felt it fair to give her a chance to respond.” However, the editor’s note did not explicitly acknowledge Radovich’s undisclosed relationship to the Proud Boys.
“We will continue to publish varied opinions from across the political spectrum on important local issues,” Orsi vowed. “But this decision fell short of our standards, and we apologize to our readers.”