The decision to publish "Democrats Are Now the Party of Lawlessness and Anarchy," an op-ed by Donald Trump Jr., wasn't an easy one for Megan Schrader, editorial-page editor of the Denver Post, to which the piece was provided as an exclusive. And she acknowledges that plenty of readers reacted negatively to her choice.
"The hardest feedback to take was from people who read it and thought we were presenting it because we agreed with it," Schrader says of the essay, shared on September 21. "And I didn't agree with it. I disagreed vehemently with what he said, and more than that, I disagreed with the way that he said it. I think it's not healthy for America."
Because the rest of the Post's editorial board felt the same way, Schrader goes on, "the question is, 'Why on earth would you give him a platform?'"
Her answer: "These aren't the words of some random person who feels this way. These are the words of the son of the president of the United States, who was active in the president's campaign run and business operations. In and of itself, it became newsworthy. And I thought, as a reporter, I would report on his words. So as an editor, I felt I had a duty to get them out to the public."
The Post hasn't been shy about criticizing the Trump administration's fondness for Hater-Aid. Note that last month, the paper took part in a nationwide campaign to publish editorials decrying the president's branding of the media as the "enemy of the people."
At the same time, Schrader believes in the philosophy of using the editorial page as a way to share a multitude of views, not just one, even though the amount of space available tends to be smaller than it was ten or twenty years ago. Granted, there are some lines she won't cross: "I'm never going to let a white supremacist spew racism on my pages," she stresses. "But this is the son of the president, and these are his political views. That brings into play whether we truly support the idea of allowing people to have their side told, and I am very committed to that, even when it's something I disagree with."
The op-ed came to Schrader's attention by way of "a public relations firm that has offered me conservative commentary in the past," she reveals. "Some of it I've run and some of it I haven't. But this company reached out to me and offered me this exclusive. I didn't get into why they were offering an exclusive in Denver, but I have my speculations."
Specifically, Schrader points out that Trump Jr. "was in town doing some fundraising — not for any candidate but for some various events. And he's held other rallies recently and has become more vocal publicly" after a period of lower-profile activity most observers see as connected to special investigator Robert Mueller's reported interest in the part he played regarding a June 2016 meeting with Russian nationals who promised dirt on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
That Trump Jr. is, in Schrader's words, "a central figure" in the Mueller inquiry only made the younger Trump's editorial more noteworthy to her, even if the observations made in his name aren't exactly fresh.
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The offering begins with an assault on Democratic senators' "disregard for law, order and basic decency" during the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — the sessions that preceded accusations of sexual impropriety against him put forward by at least two women, including one from Colorado.
At that point, the editorial pivots to an exploration of "Democrats' embrace of anarchy" when it comes to "open borders and sanctuary cities," complete with dog-whistle references to "criminal illegal aliens" and a tweeted photo of Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison (an African-American) holding a copy of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. It concludes with these lines: "Donald Trump and the Republican Party stand for law, order, and safety. The Democrats stand for lawlessness, disorder and anarchy. The choice this November could not be more clear — the people will pick law and order."
It's unclear how effective such boilerplate language will be in Colorado, a state that supported Clinton in 2016, albeit by a fairly narrow margin. Meanwhile, Schrader is standing by the editorial's publication even as she admits to some lingering self-doubts.
"After the blowback, it's easy to second-guess yourself — and healthy to second-guess yourself," she says. "I'm hoping that it didn't do more bad than good."