St Louis Dispatch Editor On Axing George Will: 'Readers Were Horrified'

Tony Messenger, the editorial page editor of the St. Louis Dispatch, told CNN's Brian Stelter why he dropped George Will's column from his paper after Will's highly controversial editorial on sexual assault. Messenger said he was sorry that they even published it in the first place and that Will's words trivialized the sexual assault on women.

MESSENGER: Well, the reaction we had from readers, particularly from women, so many of them were so deeply offended that they could be called -- that George Will told them that they were trying to somehow seek a special status, that they were trying to seek some privileged status because of their alleged sexual assault.

It just -- we had a lot of readers very angry and very hurt. And 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 just caused us to make the decision a little bit more quickly than we would have otherwise.

STELTER: You even apologized for running the column in the first place. That must be pretty rare.

MESSENGER: I don't know that it's ever happened before. It might have. It hasn't happened in my tenure here as the editorial page editor. And the reason for that was, we did run it. And so our reaction to it, going back and taking a look and realizing that there was a lot of offensive imagery in that that victimized women, we had to take responsibility for that. We published it. We wish we wouldn't have.
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STELTER: Can you understand why some people, though, are saying it's intolerant to be dropping the column?

MESSENGER: Oh, absolutely. And that's unfortunately the nature of political debate today.

A lot of the responses that were negative to our decision accused us of doing so for political correctness. That's not the case. We believe that the column trivializes sexual assault victims. We believe it trivializes very serious attempts on campuses to deal with the scourge of sexual assault.


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It's a topic that we have written about on our editorial page a lot and I'm comfortable with our interpretation of what Mr. Will wrote.

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