A West Virginia paper has found itself in the midst of controversy after printing an anonymous, hate-filled rant about minorities and gays.
The slur-filled "gripe" was actually a transcript of a voicemail left on the paper's "Gripes and Gratitudes" phone line. Referring to an ongoing controversy in the region about a gay teacher named Kelli Burns who was recently fired by the school board, the anonymous caller said:
We were really glad to hear that School Board is getting rid of them queers. The next thing is we need to get rid of all the n****rs, the spics, the kikes and the wops. You know even them Catholics, they are wrong as baby eaters. We need to clear them people out and have good, white, God fearing Christians and everybody else needs to be put to death for their abominations. We'll keep Lincoln County white and right. Thank you.
Since then, the newspaper has received a slew of calls about its decision to run the comment.
Local television station WCHS recently interviewed Lincoln County residents about the rant, and some said they were very offended by it. Janet Dooley, interim dean at Marshall University's School of Journalism, said it "hit several of the markers of hate speech."
In an interview with The Huffington Post, however, Lincoln Journal Managing Editor Sean O'Donoghue defended the decision to publish the rant.
The firing of Kelli Burns had been an emotional and widely-read case that the Journal had been following for several weeks, O'Donoghue said.
When the Gripe voicemail was left, O'Donoghue had Burns come in to the office, listen to the voicemail and give her perspective. Her reaction was filmed and posted on the newspaper's website.
"Gosh, that just about says it all," Burns said after listening to the rant. "It's really hard to believe that opinions and such bigotry still exist anywhere in the world and especially also in West Virginia. But yet there you have a perfect example of appalling viewpoints and statements about other people."
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Ultimately, the paper decided to run the screed to raise awareness of the kind of hate and bigotry that still exists in Lincoln County. (O'Donoghue noted that Burns also gave the paper permission to print the gripe.)
"We made clear, that while all readers are entitled to their views, we feel pity for people who resort to racial slurs," he told HuffPost.
While this one caller's views may not be representative of a "large swathe" of the populace, O'Donoghue pointed out that of the handful of people WCHS interviewed for their reaction piece, one citizen said he supported the sentiment.
O'Donoghue added that while people outside of the county had called him to complain about the gripe, few people from inside the community had reacted so passionately.
"What does that say? I think that says that people in the county are not shocked to to hear somebody say that. Locally, there's more of an understanding that there are people in our community capable of such hateful things," he said.
View Kelli Burns' reaction to the rant in the video below.