Just one month after taking the reins of The Washington Times — a paper with a long history of far-right reporting and several top editors linked to white supremacist ideas — Editor-in-Chief John Solomon has signaled a major change in direction.
In an internal memo issued on Monday, Feb. 25, the Times’ Patrick Tuohy listed a set of five changes to the publication’s rules of style. The brief E-mail spoke volumes.
No longer will the Times refer snidely in headlines to “Hillary”; the new headline reference to the New York senator and presidential candidate will now be “Clinton.” The word “gay” will replace the word “homosexual” in copy — “except in clinical references or references to sexual activity,” as Tuohy writes. The newspaper, which had fiercely opposed gay marriage in its editorials and less explicitly in many of its news columns, will stop using sarcastic quotes around the word “marriage” when discussing same-sex unions. It has now approved the word “moderate” (“centrist” was the formerly preferred term) for discussing a particular range of political views — a word it apparently avoided in the past because it carried the connotation of “reasonable.” Finally, the newspaper will now refer to “illegal immigrants,” not “illegal aliens,” a term many immigrants and human rights activists feel is denigrating and conjures up visions of frightening other-worldly beings.
The Washington Times has a long history of hard-right political views that informed not only its editorial pages but also, very frequently, its new reporting. It has a reputation for using tendentious language that demeans those it disagrees with. The new style changes clearly reflect the efforts of Solomon, a former Associated Press and Washington Post reporter, to point the paper in a more mainstream direction.
Solomon replaced Wesley Pruden, who had been editor-in-chief for 16 years and who had championed his managing editor, Francis Booth Coombs, as his replacement. As a result, Coombs quit the paper with Pruden. A Coombs favorite, assistant national editor Robert Stacy McCain, followed a few days later. All three men have ties to white supremacist ideas that have been detailed in the Intelligence Report and on Hatewatch, both published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and elsewhere.