US Newspapers Break Decades of Tradition With Trump Opposition


Chris Hannas


When the Dallas Morning News endorsed a Democrat in the U.S. presidential race for the first time in more than 75 years, the reaction from readers ranged from exclamatory praise to expletive-laden predictions of doom for the country.

The decision last month by the newspaper’s editorial board was followed by others that have traditionally supported Republican candidates but this year have instead backed Hillary Clinton, and in one case Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Those papers include the Houston Chronicle, Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer and Detroit News, all of which, along with the Dallas Morning News, supported Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

What is extra unusual about the endorsements is their timing, with all of them coming about a month earlier than they did in 2012, suggesting an extra level of conviction in a statement that typically comes closer to election day.

The various editorial boards cited serious questions about Trump in laying out their case for not backing his candidacy in the November 8 vote.

The Cincinnati Enquirer called Trump a «clear and present danger to our country» in announcing it was breaking a nearly 100-year streak of supporting Republicans.

«We have issues with Clinton,» the editors wrote. «But our reservations about Clinton pale in comparison to our fears about Trump.»

The Dallas Morning News said that Clinton has shown bad judgment, «but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent’s.»

The Arizona Republic, which has never endorsed a Democrat, put the decision in similar terms, saying that Trump is «not conservative and not qualified,» and that while Clinton has flaws, she is the «superior choice.»

The Detroit News had only ever backed Republicans before choosing this year to throw its support behind the Libertarian Johnson. The paper’s editorial board explained it feels Trump is «unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous,» but also has concerns about Clinton’s character.

«Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply,» they wrote.

Trump, who along with Clinton has made Twitter a major part of this year’s campaign, posted his displeasure with the endorsements and predicted they would lead readers to cut ties with the papers.

Dallas Morning News Editor Mike Wilson says he is not worried about an effect on subscriptions and that what matters is people becoming informed about the election and voting, no matter which candidate they pick.

«Certainly we’ve paid a price for our presidential recommendation, but then, we write our editorials based on principle, and sometimes principle comes at a cost,» he wrote in an email to Poynter.

Phil Boas, editorial director at the Arizona Republic, told CNN his paper has seen cancelations, but has also attracted new subscribers in other states after the endorsement came out.

«We got a torrent of reaction,» he said. «We got a lot of angry callers, but we have gotten a surprising amount of support not just in Arizona but from around the country.»

Boas said the editors expected to lose some readers, but did not consider that factor in choosing Clinton.

«We thought there were issues and values here that were far more important,» he told CNN.

Republic editors and those at the Detroit News also used online videos to further explain their decisions.

Nolan Finley, the editorial page editor of the Detroit News, said on Facebook the paper had heard from a lot of people like one reader named Sandy who commented that she was canceling her subscription.

«We would love to have you with us, Sandy,» Finley said. «We would love to continue the conversation, but this is what we did based on our values and the values we projected to our readers over 143 years.»