St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed editor Tony Messenger spoke out Sunday about George Will's incendiary piece on sexual assault and the newspaper's subsequent decision to drop Will's column.
In a piece earlier this month, Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist, wrote that being a rape victim is now a "coveted status" on college campuses. The piece outraged readers and politicians, and prompted the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to announce earlier this week that it will no longer run Will's syndicated column.
Messenger spoke to CNN's Brian Stelter during Sunday's "Reliable Sources," and explained how the newspaper -- which said it had been considering dropping the column "for several months" -- arrived at the decision.
"We had a lot of readers very angry and very hurt," Messenger said. "It caused us to go back and take a look at it, and it reinforced our previous decision that he had lost a little bit of speed off his fastball, and it caused us to make the decision a little bit more quickly than we would have otherwise."
He also defended the decision to critics who argued that the Post-Dispatch was wrong to silence Will's viewpoint on the issue. Messenger said that the column was "very offensive to many of our readers" and that it is "well within our rights to decide what sort of debate, what level of civility, what level of treatment of women who are sexual assault victims we're going to allow on our page."
"A lot of the responses that were negative to our decision accused us of doing so for political correctness," Messenger added. "That's not the case. We believe that the column trivializes sexual assault victims."
Messenger also told Romenesko that the vast majority of readers he has heard from support the newspaper's decision, while a "handful" said they oppose it.