Columnist Sets Off Storm Calling Michael Brown ‘Animal’ Who Had To Be ‘Put Down’

Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot in Ferguson, Mo.
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October 28, 2014 3:17 p.m.

The frustration from Charleston Daily Mail’s editor and publisher Brad McElhinny was clear when TPM reach him by phone on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve had better days,” he said.

His exasperation was understandable. On Saturday, Don Surber, the West Virginia paper’s lone editorial columnist, took to his personal blog to offer his thoughts on “police brutality” and the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

“This summer I had an epiphany as I watched packs of racists riot in Ferguson, Missouri, in support of a gigantic thug who was higher than a kite when he attacked Ferguson Police Department Officer Darren Wilson, who unfortunately had to put this animal down,” Surber wrote.

By Sunday morning, Surber appended an update to the top of the post and crossed out the final phrase of the sentence.

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“I made a factual error. Michael Brown was not an animal but a man. Big. Brutal. High,” Surber wrote in the update. “His death was a justifiable homicide and not a putting down.”

McElhinny told TPM he was grateful when we noted up front that the post appeared on Surber’s blog, home to gags about Hillary Clinton’s age and commentaries on the benefits of carbon dioxide, and that it had not appeared in the Charleston newspaper.

But the editor nevertheless apologized for the inflammatory characterization of Brown.

“We’re sorry about the impression Mr. Surber gave. That’s not the view of the paper as a whole,” McElhinny said. “His words were uncareful and he is aware of that. He is aware that although it was his personal blog, people realize he is a columnist and an editorial writer for the paper and it’s certainly affected our reputation.”

McElhinny said the newspaper has “been in discussions directly involving Don” since the post went up, but he wouldn’t say if the columnist would face any fallout.

“That’s between us at the moment,” he said.

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