George Will’s column about rape trivialized sexual assault victims, St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed editor Tony Messenger said Sunday, and that’s why the newspaper dropped his column.
In an interview Sunday with CNN’s Brian Stelter during “Reliable Sources,” Messenger said that the paper had considered dropping Will even before that column.
“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.”
See video: George Will Defends Rape Column
The conservative Will, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his columns, wrote earlier this month that being a rape victim is now a “coveted status” on college campuses. Calls from politicians and readers prompted the paper’s decision last week to stop running Will’s work.
Messenger also defended the paper against critics who said it was squelching free speech in dropping the column because of Will’s views.
“It’s 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,” he said.
“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.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wasn’t the only paper that took issue with the column. The Chicago Tribune passed on running it. “I thought the column was misguided and insensitive,” the Tribune’s editorial page editor Bruce Dold told watchdog site Media Matters.