Florida Newspaper Pulls Op-Ed Sympathizing With White Nationalist Group

A Florida newspaper has apologized and pulled an op-ed by a woman married to a member of the far right, white nationalist group calling itself the Proud Boys — which they originally ran without disclosing her ties to that organization.

The executive editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Jennifer Orsi, said in a note to readers on July 11 2022 that her publication had “erred” in running a column by Melissa Radovich — whose husband, Nicholas Radovich, had previously been identified as a “Proud Boy” in the newspaper — defending the group.

Fact Check

Claim: Florida Newspaper Published Op-Ed Sympathizing With White Nationalist Group

Description: The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a Florida newspaper, published an op-ed written by Melissa Radovich, who is married to a member of the Proud Boys which is a far-right white nationalist group. The publication initially ran the op-ed without disclosing Radovich’s ties to the group. However, following backlash, the executive editor apologised and pulled the op-ed.

Rating: True

Rating Explanation: The claim was confirmed by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s own executive editor who cited the publication of the op-ed as an error. The actual background of the author, her relation to the group, and the content of the op-ed all align with the description of the claim. Hence, the rating.

Reporter Andy Campbell of the Huffington Post captured portions of Radovich’s column before it was pulled and posted them on Twitter:

“When I think about the Proud Boys, I think of fathers, business owners and veterans,” Radovich wrote. “These fathers have spoken at many school board meetings. They are concerned about the direction that their local schools are heading in, and I commend them for coming to school board meetings.”

Radovich’s account flies in the face of evidence that “Proud Boys” in several cities around the United States have openly aligned themselves with anti-vaccine demonstrators in order to intimidate those local school boards. As The Daily Beast reported in August 2021:

Last month, a group of men with Proud Boy uniforms and anti-masking signs attended a Palm Beach County, Florida school board meeting, CBS12 reported. Members of the group sat inside the meeting, and stood on a street corner with a banner bedecked in the Proud Boys logo and the slogan “unmask the children.”

That same month, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio attended a school board meeting in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. Tarrio told WPLG Local 10 News that members of his group were there to speak against masks, vaccine requirements, and “critical race theory.”

Orsi said in her note that an unidentified editor “felt it fair” to give Radovich a platform after she was identified by name in a previous op-ed by another resident, Lisa Gialdini Schurr, urging local school board members to stand up to her husband’s group:

There comes a point in time where we must draw a line in the sand on this issue. But in addition to drawing that line, we must also erect a barricade against the toxic rhetoric espoused by the Proud Boys and other hate groups. And that’s why the time has come for all of the candidates running for the Sarasota County School Board to loudly and publicly denounce the Proud Boys.

Orsi correctly pointed out in her note that the Proud Boys have been listed by the governments of both Canada and New Zealand as a terrorist group, and said that giving them a platform was “antithetical” to the Herald-Tribune’s ethics.

“Our editorial process failed to keep this column from being published as it appeared, which did not meet our standards,” she wrote. “We are adding additional, higher level review of the process for accepting and editing guest columns for publication.”

We contacted Orsi and opinions editor Roger Brown asking them to not only identify the person who approved Radovich’s piece for publication but to offer more information on the “additional, higher level review” for future op-eds. They did not respond, and a spokesperson for Gannett — the newspaper’s parent company — sent us an email with a link to Orsi’s note.