St. Louis Post-Dispatch drops George Will: Congratulations

takerapeseriouslyAs a longtime subscriber to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I’m happy to see that the newspaper has removed George Will from its op-ed page. The move came in response to Will’s recent article declaring that campus-rape victims  claim “a coveted status that confers privileges.”

In a note to readers, the Post-Dispatch said:

The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.

A few days later, on CNN’s Reliable Sources broadcast, Messenger further explained the decision:

We found it very offensive to many of our readers, and that’s well within our rights on an editorial page, is 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,” he continued. “That’s not the case. We believe that the column trivializes sexual assault victims. We think it trivializes very serious attempts on campuses to deal with the scourge of sexual assault.

Messenger offered further explanation in a  a chat with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Blog:

Messenger said that the apology was the first note of contrition that the paper had passed along to its readers. The two-week lag, says Messenger, gave him space to assess the column: “Sometimes thoughtful analysis takes some time,” says Messenger. “Seeing the reaction and intensity of the hurt in some of social media and the reaction of women I know and talking to people who really were offended by the thought that sexual assault victims would seek some special victimhood — it helped seeing that response and it informed my opinion.

Negative backlash to the Will column came from readers in the St. Louis area, as well as from national sites and commentators. “Women readers in particular — many of them were offended,” says Messenger.

I applaud the decision. Will–who, by comparison to more contemporary, right-wing flamethrowers–has sometimes seemed to be a somewhat reasonable Republican, has nevertheless always been a sanctimonious prick. This time, he went too far, making absolute judgments about people and situations he clearly knows nothing about. The decision to can him was not an act of political correctness, it was the right thing to do.

The Post-Dispatch has decided to replace Will with Michael Gerson, a conservative Republican who was one of George W. Bush’s top speechwriters.