Scott Gillespie: Opining on Ilhan Omar

Scott Gillespie is the editorial editor and vice president of the Star Tribune. He is in charge of the opinion side of the newspaper. In his daily email newsletter yesterday, Scott discussed the paper’s coverage of Rep. Ilhan Omar under the subject heading “Opining on Ilhan Omar.” I think it’s fair to say that Scott is proud of the paper’s coverage of Omar.

I wrote Scott to say that I think it has been poor and that it has particularly ill served the paper’s core Fifth District DFL readers. I asked Scott if I could have his permission to post his message verbatim on Power Line with the thought that I might respond in an open letter to him on the site.

Scott promptly gave me his permission. He asked only that I “make clear that news and opinion are separate at the Star Tribune – a point I make often in the newsletter but might be lost on Power Line readers – and that I am responsible for opinion.” I hope to post a brief response to Scott in the next day or two (it’s not written yet). Scott’s message is below along with the links that Scott embedded in it:

“It must be a great time to be an opinion editor.”

I hear some version of that comment about once a week these days – in social settings, at church, when running into someone I haven’t seen for a while at the grocery store. “It sure is,” is my typical reply. “For the most part.”

Along with keeping up with a long and fast-changing list of news developments, each day at Star Tribune Opinion we receive a steady stream of rants from readers that reflect the tensions that seem to define these times. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the volume is higher and the tone is edgier.

Take, for example, an e-mail I received Sunday from a reader in Wisconsin, commenting on last week’s news and opinion coverage of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.:

This is what happens: she has no anchor, no context, in Western society, thought or religion, no allegiance/loyalty to her country or to its laws (including laws against incest, polygamy and immigration fraud- felonies all). Further, she, quite frankly, lives a lie for purposes that obviously are hid from public scrutiny (with your help). Do your job – ask why and find out who she really is, then run that news as a hard news story – not your opinion. She took office with some kind of oath (somehow kept off mic) on a red-bound Quran in place of a Bible (see photos) and she asked for, and received, special dispensation from the Speaker so she could wear a tribal hajib in the U.S. House of Representative chambers contrary to House Rules prohibiting headwear. Again, all of the above is real hard news.

She stupidly makes her remarks, but offers not one bit of proof – yet she gets a willing press (the STRIB) to cover her as if she were an infallible sage. Shame on you for not verifying what she claimed before running your ‘story.’ This is FAKE NEWS – the true enemy of democracy.

Largely because of lack of critical reporting by the press, she was elected by willing dupes – these types were once referred to in history as Convenient Idiots. Your publication offers no hard news story relating to her slanderous statement and damning accusation of the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but instead you editorialize, give your opinion, equivocate and explain her away disingenuously to your own satisfaction – this buried deep in your editorial pages.

It’s difficult to know where to start. There has, of course, been “hard” news coverage on Omar that addressed some of the issues raised by the reader. And, yes, last week the news side covered her Twitter attack on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and made it clear that she offered up no specific evidence that the senator was “compromised.”

The Editorial Board took Omar to task Saturday, writing that her “irresponsible tweet…suggests she has work to do to achieve the gravitas that should be expected even from a first-term member of Congress.”

None of this, apparently, has satisfied our neighbor to the east. So what do we have here: Racism? Xenophobia? Religious intolerance? Maybe all of the above? I’ll let you reach your own conclusions.

It really is a great time to be an opinion editor — for the most part.