A column by guest-writer Ron Scarbro published in the May 6 Sauk Rapids-Rice and St. Joseph Newsleader brought anger and even outrage from some readers.
We admit those responses are justified.
Scarbro, a former Sartell resident, moved several years ago to Georgia. For more than 10 years he has been a guest column for the Newsleader newspapers. Often, he writes political columns from a right-of-center perspective, just as editor-columnist Dennis Dalman writes ones usually from a left-of-center point of view. Both columnists have long received plenty of flak from readers for their opinions.
Scarbro often uses acidic satire, exaggerations and metaphors in his columns, as does Dalman and many other columnists coast to coast.
The May 6 Scarbro column that caused the letters of outrage was headlined with “Pest Control includes BS, HYPE and DONALD’S.” In it, Scarbro compared presidential candidates Sanders, Clinton and Trump to pest-control businesses and then wrote satirically about how each pest-control business would handle illegal immigration.
When Newsleader Editor Dalman first read the submission, his reaction was he didn’t at all agree with its points. His other simultaneous reaction was words like “vermin and pests” are inflammatory and even hateful, but since Scarbro seemed to be directing those terms at dangerous undocumented border-crossers like murderers, rapists and drug-cartel dealers, such words did not seem too extreme.
Once the column was published and readers expressed their disgust, Dalman re-read Scarbro’s column in the mind-set of a reader who had never read Scarbro’s satirical writings before. The readers were right. Scarbro’s column does not sufficiently spell out that he was referring only to violent criminals. The vitriolic words at least seem to be aimed categorically at all undocumented immigrants, even if that is not what Scarbro meant.
We are confident Scarbro did not intend to tar all immigrants with the same brush. However, that doesn’t change its effect upon readers. Dalman regrets giving the go-ahead to publish that column, and he, the newspaper owner and the staff would like to apologize to anybody and everybody who was offended, hurt or outraged by it.
This newspaper has long championed the cause of law-abiding, hard-working immigrants, even undocumented ones, who are trying so hard to improve their lot in life, and we also strongly favor an immigration-reform bill that will allow undocumented workers to emerge from the shadows and begin a process that could someday lead to citizenship.
We have given Scarbro the opportunity to specify more clearly exactly what he meant to express in his column – that is, which immigrants he was castigating. We expect Scarbro to clarify his intent and/or to apologize for what comes across intentionally or not as hateful stereotyping.