by Sam Allard
Scene received a concerned letter from the League of United Latin American Citizens saying their organization had reached out to the PD and O’Brien personally. They wanted to meet, they said, and provide some informed perspective for O’Brien and his jingoistic rantings.
“Our objections...have less to do with Mr. O’Brien’s First Amendment rights to express his opinion,” Richard Herman, Civil Rights Director for LULAC Ohio, wrote the PD, “and more to do with your decision to publish it.”
LULAC believes that O’Brien’s unfounded views, with not a single citation or expert source, reflects badly on the journalistic integrity of the paper and “fuels the fires of intolerance” in Northeast Ohio."
“Would you publish an Op-Ed by L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling that explained why African Americans are inferior to others,” inquired Herman, “simply because he believed in this viewpoint?”
LULAC provided a bulleted list with some of O’Brien’s more objectionable assertions. (We’ve got a much longer, more comprehensive list ourselves). Among them: “Citizenship is the very last thing on [immigrants’] minds. Money is first”; “...Contrast that with the vast majority of ‘immigrants,’ who arrive illegally and with no interest whatsoever in contributing to a better, stronger America”; “In no way does the scant benefit of cheap labor begin to offset the damage that is being done to American law and culture.”
O’Brien penned another editorial on April 22, in response to a private letter he received from “a very earnest fellow” — not LULAC — who took exception to his piece. O’Brien again, provided no official sources for his claims and reiterated that he had no beef with legal immigrants:
“Meeting legal immigrants and refugees wouldn’t change my mind, because I have no quarrel with them,” O’Brien insisted. “Meeting illegal immigrants wouldn’t, either, because it doesn’t matter whether they’re nice people or had good personal reasons for coming here. They are in the wrong, no matter their personal reasons.”
Not that O’Brien would care, but The Pew Hispanic Center did conduct a survey in 2012 which found that 93 percent of Hispanic immigrants wanted to become U.S. citizens. (Gasp!) This was true both for those who are legal permanent residents (96 percent) and for those who aren’t (92 percent).
The NEOMG’s Chris Quinn, Andrea Hogben and Elizabeth Sullivan sat down with LULAC and representatives from Latino media last week. According to Herman, Chris Quinn had assumed the meeting would be off-the-record. The NEOMG continued to claim that their editorials (O’Brien’s in particular, we assume) are “just one person’s opinion.” It wasn't an unsigned editorial by the paper's board. It was O'Brien's personal column.
Herman contends that the “just one person” argument doesn’t hold water when you’re shaping the dialogue in the region with the weight and “imprimatur” of the daily newspaper. He told Scene that O’Brien’s op-eds are symptomatic of a much larger problem about the way Cleveland talks about immigration. Herman says LULAC requested an official apology from O’Brien, a retraction, and the appointment of a Latino in a leadership position at the Plain Dealer, but he’s not counting on a response.