The Tennessean’s Director of Opinion and Engagement David Plazas formally apologized late last week for publishing a column that former Nashville mayoral candidate Carol Swain submitted and wrote five years ago that criticized Islam.
Swain, when The Tennessee Star contacted her Tuesday, said Plazas smeared her and “had lost all sense of journalistic integrity.”
Plazas apologized for publishing Swain’s opinion piece in a Tennessean column of his own last Friday.
Swain said Plazas’ “personal politics influenced his decision.”
“As for The Tennessean, they can no longer call themselves journalists. They have been moving in the wrong direction for a long time and, for me, I have tried to support them because they are local,” Swain said.
“They cover news that reaches a wide spectrum of the public, so it’s a community resource but it’s not one I will be using or supporting anymore.”
Plazas did not return The Star’s requests for comment before Tuesday’s stated deadline.
In his column, Plazas first apologized for an ad that he said The Tennessean staff accidentally approved and published this month that warned Islam was planning to attack Nashville using a nuclear weapon. An Arkansas-based organization reportedly submitted the ad.
“I agreed to publish a point-counterpoint by former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain and former American Muslim Advisory Council Executive Director Paul Galloway. This followed the massacre of 17 people in Paris — including several journalists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — by extremists claiming to act on behalf of the religion of Islam,” Plazas wrote.
“Swain had submitted a guest column calling for curbing the civil rights of American Muslim citizens in response to the attack. During Tuesday’s editorial board meeting, I apologized for publishing Swain’s column. I apologize now to the community through this column. I was woefully ignorant at the time about the abuse and fear-mongering leveled at Muslims over the years and never intended to escalate it, even if in the name of open public debate.”
But on Tuesday Swain disputed Plazas and how he publicly characterized her.
“I stand by what I wrote. The only clarification [about that column] that I made when I was running for mayor was that it had been twisted to mean that I hated all Muslims and that I thought they were all terrorists. Nothing could have been further from the truth,” Swain said.
“And the warning that I used about what I was saying had taken place with regards to Islam, well, we saw what happened following that article. We had a number of terrorist attacks on American soil, and we know the Obama administration was not properly vetting the people that they were bringing into the country. So I was vindicated by what I wrote.”
The Star asked Ken Paulson, the director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, to comment. Paulson said he would decline.
“There’s no First Amendment issue here, and that’s where my expertise lies,” Paulson said in an email.
Swain, meanwhile, said Plazas, in his column, tried to marginalize her in case she runs for mayor again — but she said she currently has no plans to do so.
“Lumping my article in with that ad. That is like guilt by association because I criticized or issued a warning about Islam,” Swain said.
“To me it shows a lack of journalistic integrity, but it also shows the politics that are involved and The Tennessean’s effort to try to smear me. [As for their] writing about me as a black conservative, it’s just been one smear game after another.”
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Photo “David Plazas” by David Plazas.