Just days after suggesting that some southern states should secede from the U.S. to form a new country that is based on "traditional values" and less tolerant of the LGBT community, columnist Douglas MacKinnon has left his job at the Tampa Tribune, according to the paper's publisher.
MacKinnon, a former aide to Ronald Reagan, recently published The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country...Now. According to Right Wing Watch, during a recent interview with conservative radio host Janet Mefferd promoting the book, MacKinnon "specifically cited advances in gay rights as a reason for Southern states to leave the U.S. and create a new country." His proposal -- including floating "Reagan" as an "interim name" for the new country -- received widespread ridicule.
Citing unnamed sources, Tampa outlet Creative Loafing reported Monday that MacKinnon had been fired, speculating that it was "because of the embarrassment to the paper." Tampa Tribune publisher Brian Burns confirmed to Media Matters today that MacKinnon was indeed leaving the paper, but declined to give a reason. According to Burns, "at this point, no he is not employed."
Asked by Media Matters to clarify if MacKinnon had been fired or quit, Burns said, "I really can't comment on it, it's a personnel issue so we gotta keep that internal."
MacKinnon could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
MacKinnon's secession proposal follows an incident in August when the columnist sparked controversy for a piece that claimed the Walt Disney Company had a "pro-gay agenda" and was trying to "indoctrinate" children.
The Tribune later pulled that column from its website.
A recent study from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) claims that smog regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will cost the economy $270 billion. But the regulations, necessary to alleviate the unsafe smog pollution currently experienced by 140 million Americans, will likely achieve net benefits by reducing costs associated with medical expenses and premature deaths, while experts have said the NAM study uses "fraudulent" claims and is "not based in economic reality."
A conservative columnist for the Tampa Tribune criticized the Walt Disney Co. for allegedly pushing a "pro-gay agenda," asserting that the company is using its programming to "indoctrinate" children about "gay lifestyles and gay marriage."
In his August 12 column, Douglas MacKinnon - a former aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush - charged that Disney was peddling the "gay agenda" to "impressionable children" by exposing them to "openly gay characters and couples":
Beginning with the takeover of the company by Michael Eisner in 1984 and continuing under the leadership of Robert Iger since 2005, it can be argued that Disney has been working overtime to redefine "family values."
Back in the late 1990s when I worked with former Sen. Bob Dole, I had the pleasure to interact with Iger. He was professional, respectful and could not have been more kind or considerate. Since taking over, he has only made the company more profitable. But beyond his fiscal responsibility to shareholders, does Iger have an even greater responsibility to impressionable children?
Disney has made no secret that it pushes a pro-gay agenda. That is most certainly its right. But where does the company draw the line? A former Disney executive I spoke with told me the company has taken direct aim at children to indoctrinate them about gay lifestyles and gay marriage through shows it airs on The Disney Channel and Disney XD.
The former executive said one of the more subtle techniques is to incorporate the colors of the gay-pride flag in as many shots as possible. The colors are woven in as a wink and nod to the gay community and show up on shirts, hats, posters, stacked cups and rings. The practice has been picked up by other children's networks and national advertisers.
Disney also pushes the gay agenda by introducing openly gay characters and couples on its children's programing. Again, that is their right, but should they be in the business of entertaining children or indoctrinating them? [emphasis added]
MacKinnon never explains what harm might be caused by featuring gay-inclusive programming - suggesting that he sees an inherent harm in simply letting children know that gay people exist and have families.
MacKinnon's attack on Disney's alleged "pro-gay agenda is just the latest in the columnist's history of rabid right-wing rhetoric.
A Tampa Tribune editorial celebrating the Supreme Court's decision to allow companies to discriminate against certain types of birth control in their insurance plans furthered the flawed concept that the government was forcing companies to provide "life-ending morning-after pills." In fact, the scientific community has found that the disputed forms of contraception are not abortifacients.
Numerous local newspapers failed to identify the fossil fuel funding behind Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, while allowing him to publish op-eds across the country misleadingly attacking a potential tax credit for wind power, while ignoring subsidies for the oil and gas industries.
A Media Matters analysis found that Florida newspapers including, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun-Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Tampa Tribune, largely failed to cover the key details of Medicaid expansion in the lead up to the state's legislative session, including the specific benefits of expansion and the negative impact the failure to expand would have on the state and Floridians.
The Tampa Tribune published an article on the Florida Family Association's (FFA) campaign against the cable news network Al Jazeera America, failing to note the FFA's fringe Islamophobic and anti-LGBT views.
Al Jazeera America's journalism has been lauded by media critics, but the network's recent launch triggered a wave of right-wing, Islamophobic backlash. Most notorious among Al Jazeera America's critics is David Caton, head of the FFA, who has launched a crusade to stop corporations from advertising on what he describes as the radical Islamist network.
In a September 22 article, the Tribune reported on Caton and the FFA's campaign:
Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news agency that stoked anti-Muslim emotions in the West a decade ago when it aired taped Osama bin Laden's threats to the United States, is now available to American news consumers and can be seen by Tampa area couch potatoes on the Verizon FiOS cable system.
That doesn't sit well with David Caton, head of the Florida Family Association, which has mounted an email campaign targeting corporations that advertise on the news channel.
He said there are only about eight major American companies advertising on Al Jazeera America.
"When we started, there were about 65," he said. "Our goal right now is to educate corporate America that the channel is there and urge them to stop spending advertising dollars there. We don't want American consumer dollars to go back to Qatar."
Caton and many Americans recall when, as U.S. forces hunted bin Laden, Al Jazeera aired tapes of the al-Qaida leader vowing violence on America and the West. That painted Al Jazeera for many as the voice of radical Islam. Since then, the news gathering agency has expanded across the globe, garnering journalism awards for its in-depth reporting.
Caton shrugged that off, saying the content of the news programs make no difference. He says the organization still is tied to radical Muslim organizations.
"If they played Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons 24 hours a day," he said, "our consumer dollars will still be sent to Qatar." [emphasis added]