Douglas MacKinnon, one of the most conservative and controversial columnists to grace the pages of a Tampa Bay daily newspaper in many a year, has been fired from the Tampa Tribune, sources tell CL.
The Trib isn't saying anything officially. Metro Editor Dennis Joyce told CL that "It's a personnel matter," and refused to confirm or deny MacKinnon's firing. But his name and work have been scrubbed off the paper's website (On Tuesday his work was back on the site).
In all probability it's because of the embarrassment to the paper.
That's because of a book he's just published in which he calls on the Southern U.S. states to secede from the rest of the country, because of the South's more conservative stance on same-sex marriage and other rights pertaining to the LGBT community. Entitled The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country…Now, the book envisions a new Southern region called Reagan,after our 40th president, and would consist of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Not Texas, however, because, well, frankly, there are too many Mexicans there.
After his appearance on a conservative radio program in which he discussed the book, the website Right Wing Watch picked up on his remarks, which then drew the attention of Huffington Post, Salon and Talking Points Memo.
MacKinnon was a speech writer for President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, and worked at the Pentagon as well. He's written opinion pieces for a number of major papers over the decades, and thus had a national portfolio when he joined the Tribune within the past year.
Right Wing Watch called him out after his appearance on The Janet Mefferd Show last Wednesday, where he cited advances in gay rights as a reason for the South to bolt the U.S. and create Reagan.
MacKinnon frequently cites "traditional values" throughout the interview, and how they've been lost in the past 20-30 years.
"If you do believe in traditional values," he says at another part of the interview, "if you are a Christian, if you are evangelical, if you do believe in the golden rule, then you're seeing all of this unravel before our eyes daily."
MacKinnon was never popular in the newsroom, a source tells CL. One reporter says that "employees here were really pissed because the guy was so way out and because Metro front is supposed to be about local news, not ranting about Obama." Another told us that MacKinnon was shunned by other reporters, often sitting by himself when he ate his lunch.
All of MacKinnon's columns were decidedly conservative, and not in a thoughtful Charles Krauthammer or David Brooks way. But none were more incendiary than his August column titled "Disney's pro-gay agenda is disturbing," in which he quoted an anonymous "former Disney executive" saying, "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."
He later wrote this in the piece:
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?
The column was ultimately taken off-line by Tribune editors, none of whom responded at the time for comment to CL.
In a column he wrote for the conservative TownHall website earlier this month, MacKinnon realized he was playing with fire with his new book, and could pay a serious price:
As I was writing the book, my wife, family members, and a few close friends implored me to at least use a pseudonym instead of my real name. I considered the suggestion but quickly cast it aside. Exactly because of the controversial nature of this book, I very well may pay a professional or even personal price for writing it. I understand that but felt strongly that my real name had to go on the book, for two reasons. The first is that precisely because of the precarious situation of our nation and the world, I felt it important to try to begin a dialogue that would resonate with those who cherish traditional values. The second reason is that because of my professional and real-life experience, I felt my name might add some credibility to the effort.