The Tennessean ― the state’s most widely circulated daily newspaper ― is facing intense scrutiny after publishing an anti-Muslim ad in its Sunday print edition that claimed “Islam” planned to detonate a nuclear bomb in Nashville.
The full-page ad, paid for by what appears to be a Christian doomsday cult, featured a banner at the top that included images of President Donald Trump, Pope Francis and American flags engulfed in flames.
The ministry of Future for America falsely asserted in its ad that the religion of Islam is going to blow up Nashville on July 18. The group claimed to know this based on “Bible prophecy” and called Trump the “final president of the USA.”
The Tennessean said it’s launching an investigation into how the ad, which the paper said clearly violates its standards, came to be published.
Michael A. Anastasi, vice president and editor of The Tennessean, told the newspaper that what happened was a “breakdown in the normal processes,” adding that the news and sales departments operate independently.
“The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances. It is wrong, period, and should have never been published,” Anastasi said. “It has hurt members of our community and our own employees and that saddens me beyond belief. It is inconsistent with everything The Tennessean as an institution stands and has stood for.”
Ads that do not meet the paper’s standards are routinely rejected for publication, The Tennessean reported. The newspaper’s sales team on Sunday ordered the ad to be pulled from future editions.
Ryan Kedzierski, one of the newspaper’s sales executives, apologized in a statement Sunday, adding that his team is reviewing why and how it was published. He said immediate action would be taken to correct the issue.
“No words or actions can describe how sorry we are to the community for the advertisements that were published,” Kedzierski said in his statement. “We will be utilizing the advertising dollars that went toward the full-page ad placements and donating those funds to the American Muslim Advisory Council.”
Twitters users slammed The Tennessean for printing the Islamophobic ad.
“We’re appalled that [The Tennessean] allowed a full-page ad stoking fear and hate against Muslim communities to run in today’s paper,” the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition tweeted. “This rhetoric is dangerous and an affront to the paper’s stated commitment to civil discourse.”
“I feel really bad for the [Tennessean] reporters working their asses off through a pandemic and furloughs only to see their work printed next to this garbage,” a reporter for News 4 Nashville said. “They deserve better.”
Some of the newspaper’s customers said they were canceling their subscriptions in response to the ad.
“Been a subscriber since 2010,” one Twitter user wrote. “I’m not going to support a news organization that will run an advertisement like this one.”
UPDATE: June 23 ― The Tennessean and its parent company, Gannett, fired the paper’s advertising manager on Monday after an internal investigation into how the anti-Muslim ad came to be published.
Three Tennessean advertising staff members “had the opportunity to review the ad in its entirety” before it was published, Kathy Jack-Romero, the president of local sales for Gannett, told The Tennessean.
A sales executive flagged the ad for review, but the advertising manager, who has not been publicly identified, “agreed to proceed with the ad without fully reviewing the content,” according to Jack-Romero.
Gannett said the sales division will receive additional training after the incident. In addition to donating the $14,000 value of the ad sale to the American Muslim Advisory Council, the company will also give a $50,000 advertising credit to the Nashville-based advocacy group.
“We have completed our review, taken action against the manager responsible, strengthened our processes to ensure this never happens again, and taken steps to mitigate the tremendous harm caused to the community,” Jack-Romero told The Tennessean. “We apologize for publishing this ad and we specifically apologize to the Muslim community, in Nashville and more broadly. This should have never happened.”