Popular conservative columnist George Will has been dumped by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch following the backlash over a column he wrote two weeks ago regarding sexual assault on college campuses.
The move was announced by the paper’s editorial editor Tony Messenger late Wednesday. He said the move had been under consideration for months beforehand, but that the recent column “made the decision easier.”
“The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it,” Messenger wrote.
Will drew ire on the left when his column cast doubt on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape,” and said that victimhood was a “coveted status” that encouraged people to make spurious allegations. Will also argued that campus activists have expanded their definition of “sexual assault” to overly broad levels that include actions like unwanted touching, and that campus tribunals are an inappropriate venue for assessing allegations of assault.
Since the column first ran, activists have been clamoring for Will’s head. A petition at MoveOn.org asking the Washington Post, Will’s primary employer, to dismiss him has collected nearly 50,000 signatures, and another from the women’s group Ultraviolet has claimed nearly 100,000. The National Organization for Women called for Will to be fired as well, and a week ago four Democratic senators sent their own letter of protest.
Will has stood his ground, and wrote his own sharp rebuke of the senators attacking him.
“I think I take sexual assault much more seriously than you do,” Will wrote. “Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it. And why I think sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes.”
Replacing Will in the Dispatch‘s Thursday and Sunday editions is Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist who worked as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006.
“We believe that Mr. Gerson’s commitment to ‘compassionate conservatism’ and his roots in St. Louis will better connect with our readers, regardless of their political bent,” said Messenger.
The move doesn’t leave Will out of a job. The Washington Post has continued to stand by him, saying his column was within the realm of reasonable debate. The Dispatch merely carried his column in syndication.
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