Censorship of views which are found “offensive” to certain groups is usually found in large sprawling cities, but in Tennessee too, it seems, freedom of speech is under threat.
The Rutherford Reader is a family-owned ,family-operated weekly publication that has been in business since August 3, 2000. The Reader, as it is known, is based out of Murfreesboro, TN a city of just over 100,000 people, which is part of the Nashville, TN. metropolitan area. It is a free weekly newspaper published by Pete Doughtie.
Since The Reader is a free weekly paper they often publish articles from other sources, and lately many of my articles have been featured on the front page each week with permission.
The paper is circulated by Distributech throughout the Rutherford County, TN area to various businesses. One of the locations where Distributech has newspaper racks is Kroger, the national grocery chain.
On Monday, May 10 Pete Doughtie received a phone call from Distributech representative, Rodney Barton, informing him that as of Friday, May 14, that they were no longer going to allow The Reader to use their racks.
When Doughtie asked for what reason, Barton’s reply was “because of the hate speech stories you print about Muslims and Islam.” At that point, Barton was asked to show Doughtie one issue containing hate speech and Barton ignored the request.
While attempting to track down the source of this accusation of hate speech, Pete Doughtie discovered that one individual had made a complaint. Doughtie has yet to find out if the original complaint was made to the Kroger or Distributech. Apparently a threat of boycott was also made to a local Kentucky Fried Chicken, who also pulled the paper after having The Reader in their rack for six years.
Mr. Doughtie contacted Kroger offering them the opportunity to comment on this situation. After a brief conversation with their spokesperson, Melissa Eads, Kroger’s made the following statement:
“The free publication rack at Kroger is managed by a third party, Distributech. It was brought to their attention that the Rutherford Reader contained hateful content. After they reviewed several issues of The Reader, they determined to no longer distribute the publication. We support them in this decision as neither of us support hate rhetoric of any kind.”
While checking distribution drops in Smyrna this past week, Doughtie was told by the greeter for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce that instructions from the office in Murfreesboro was that The Reader could no longer be placed on their counter as well. The name being used by the individual who has been contacting The Reader’s customers is Anthony Mijares.
I obtained a copy of an email, sent by this same individual to a local store in Smyrna TN:
“I reside in Smyrna Tennessee, within Rutherford County.
You distribute a local "newspaper " in your stores, titled the Rutherford Reader.
Please be aware, that The Reader contains hate speech against religion.
As of this week, the Kroger Grocery chain, and the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, has banned The Reader from all of their stores.
Recent Reader editions include these statements:
Islam is evil, dehumanizing, defiling.
Muslim immigration should be halted.
Islam is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.
Recent Reader front-page headlines read:
World's most dangerous Islamist in Pennsylvania.
Secretary Clinton helps Islamist terror supporter enter U.S.
Spitting in the face of everyone murdered on 9/11.
Rutherford County has Kurds, Egyptians, Jordanians, etc.,
who will be offended at seeing that paper in your stores.
They might also assume that you agree with that paper.
Please, stop distributing The Reader in your stores.
Please acknowledge your receipt of this email.
Please do not forward to this email to Mr.Doughtie;
he publishes photographs of his perceived enemies.
I asked Doughtie if the above statements were ever printed in his paper and he told me the following,
“I'd have to go out and look up my past columns. “Islam is evil, dehumanizing, defiling?" I don't recall using that. Dehumanizing could have been in something describing the treatment of women. ‘Halting immigration of Muslims and illegals’ I'd be capable of. Sharia not being compatible with the U.S. Constitution you bet, not Islam.”
Regardless, Mr. Doughtie has asked time and again for anyone from Kroger and Distributech to give him even one instance of “hate speech”. He is still waiting to be given an example. It appears to me that Anthony Mijares doesn’t like anything that is written about Islam or Muslims that portrays them in a bad light. Does he know what an editorial is?
What bothers me here is the way this whole situation has unfolded. Yes, Kroger, KFC and any other business have the right to carry whatever product they choose. This does not break any laws. However, I find it a bit unusual that a company the size of Kroger would make such a decision after only one complaint. We are talking about a newspaper here, not corn flakes. Newspapers print things daily with their own slant and agenda. This is why some people read the New York Times and others don’t. I have yet to see a paper where after reading just one story I couldn’t figure out if the paper leaned left or right. Is Kroger going to stop carrying each and every paper that has a particular slant or that might disagree with their views?
Is Kroger actually concerned that if they lose the business of this one individual or for that matter as Anthony Mijares stated in his email the business of “Kurds, Egyptians, Jordanians, etc.” it will outweigh the business of those that read the Rutherford Reader? The Reader has an online subscription base of over 43,000 people and has been receiving hundreds of letter of support. And what of The Reader’s rights such as being able to sue all parties for defamation?
I contacted the Kroger spokesperson Melissa Eads with the hopes of hearing Kroger’s position on the matter. I used a phone number that was given to me by Pete Doughtie. It was not only the same number he has used to contact her but also the number his paper had published just a few weeks ago. I left Eads a message and received a call back from a different number and a woman told me that “I had the wrong number”, when I apologized and checked the number she was insistent on knowing who I write for and what I was writing about. Funny, since I supposedly had the wrong number.
The bottom line is this, political correctness is rearing its ugly head once again, and fundamental rights of free speech are the casualties. Have we now reached the point that nothing negative can be printed against Islam either, even when it’s the truth? I thought only pictures of Mohammed were “offensive”.
When corporations both large and small start letting one individual dictate what all of us can read, we might as well be living under Communist rule and forget being able to get the truth because that just went out the window when political correctness came in. Kroger, KFC and anyone else who stops carrying newspapers based on whether someone’s feeling might be hurt is setting a dangerous precedent of censorship that will affect us all.
According to the Kroger website they have grocery stores nationwide operating under 29 different names along with 4 jewelry store chains and one financial service. I wonder what they would do if each and every one who reads this were to demand they stop carrying a newspaper that they don’t agree with or they will start shopping elsewhere. Hell, the Kroger near me had several newspapers this week calling Israel the aggressor over the Aid to Gaza Flotilla, I think I’ll demand that stop carrying all those papers since it was hate speech against Israel.
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