The cover of the Chico News & Review’s election issue last month (Oct. 8) featured a picture of President Donald Trump against a red background with a pair of cartoon demon horns poking out of the top of his head. With the accompanying headline “Vote” and subhead “Your life depends on it,” the not-at-all subtle message was: The CN&R recommends not voting for Trump in the 2020 general election.
The fact that this newspaper would endorse Democrat Joe Biden over Trump undoubtedly came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the CN&R’s op-ed pages. The editorial staff has been very critical of the president’s policies over the past four years, and the paper has historically recommended progressive candidates for the office.
What did come as a surprise to many was the demonic representation of the president. The reaction on social media was strong—with both positive and negative responses: “Disgusting!!! Not classy whatsoever.” “Love the cover art.” “No longer supporting this paper.” “Accurate cover.”
There were other consequences as well. Some advertisers pulled out in response, and a handful of businesses have asked for newspaper racks to be removed.
There have been two main criticisms of the cover art: it’s an attempt to sow division by painting one “side” as bad; and/or it’s portraying the president of the United States in a disrespectful manner.
Regarding the second point—point taken. We may see public figures as fair game for criticism and even brutal satire, but that doesn’t mean one’s feelings of offense aren’t valid.
Regarding the first point, we’d like to make a distinction that might be subtle to some, but is critical to the editorial staff: The image on the election-issue cover and this newspaper are not anti-Republican. Conservative values and policies are not the issue at hand. Trump is the issue, and the issue goes beyond political beliefs.
During election season, this newspaper reports on candidates whose policy plans are based on ideals rooted in their particular place along the left-to-right political spectrum. We look into what each proposes and hold the ideas up against the needs of the people to be impacted, then make our endorsements according to which leader we believe will be most successful in the role. The choices are admittedly often left-leaning, because progressives tend to be, well, “progressive” when it comes to implementing changes to fix what’s broken in society—and that matches the newspaper’s mission. We might not align as often with conservatives, but we have endorsed some; when we haven’t, the split is just a disagreement.
With Trump, it’s beyond a disagreement. It’s beyond partisanship. It’s frankly beyond the pale. As was pointed out in that same issue (see “Worst of the worst”), Trump’s policies and actions have been “disturbing.” Most demonstrable are his failures to handle our current public-health crisis, playing down the dangers and communicability of COVID-19 as it killed nearly a quarter-million Americans while mocking those who took the disease seriously.
Post-election, Trump continues to hack away at the foundations of our society with claims of voter fraud and conspiracies about Democrats stealing the election.
Trump has been such an unkind, inept, dishonest and dangerous president that it would have been egregious for this paper to not address this in our endorsements.
Finally, this was not a news story. Endorsements are informed opinions, and this demon-Trump cover was a visual component supporting our editorial staff’s strong opinion that Trump was unfit to lead and posed a danger to the health of the citizenry. The News & Review has a long tradition of criticism (hence “Review” in the paper’s name), and when we take an editorial stance it’s with the newspaper’s greater mission in mind: “To have a positive impact on our communities and make them better places to live.”
In this instance, we’d rather apologize to anyone who we offended (“sorry about that”) than have to apologize for remaining silent at the prospect of a second term with Trump as president.