The bereaved family members of an 87-year-old Kentucky woman are speaking out after her local paper declined to run her obituary as is — because a line blaming President Trump for “hastening” her Nov. 21 death was considered “negative.”
According to the Louisville Courier Journal — which also happens to be the newspaper that rejected the reference to Trump — the original obituary for Frances Irene Finley Williams included this line written by her daughter, Cathy Duff: “Her passing was hastened by her continued frustration with the Trump administration.”
Duff reportedly called out Trump because of something she says her mother told her about six months before her death: “If I die soon, all this Trump stuff has had an effect.”
The family paid $1,684.44 to have the obituary — which also warned of a dress code banning shorts, blue jeans, tennis shoes and flip-flops from Williams’s service — run for three days. Just two days before it was due to be printed, relatives were notified that the paper was refusing to run the obituary with the Trump remark.
“We are not able to publish the obituary as is, due to the negative content within the obituary text,” read an email from Gannett, which publishes the Louisville Courier Journal.
The great-grandmother’s family agreed to strike the line, though the final version does note that she was a “passionate Democrat.”
Days after Williams’s Dec. 28 memorial service, her son, Art Williams, took to Facebook to say that he was “dumbfounded, surprised — but most of all disappointed and aghast” by the decision. His post triggered outrage over the obituary’s censorship.
“I am very, very disappointed in the Courier-Journal,” he wrote. “If you read my late mom’s obituary posted here a couple of weeks ago you would have read a sentence that reads, ‘Her passing was hastened by her continued frustration with the Trump administration.’ A few days before that obituary was to run in the CJ we were notified that the CJ would not run the obituary with that sentence in it. So we took it out of the CJ version. I was — and still am, dumbfounded, surprised — but most of all disappointed and aghast that a once historically courageous American newspaper that exists by reason of freedom of speech would so trivially move to abate the free speech that it seems, when convenient, to hypocritically champion. And over a relatively innocuous sentence. Not to mention the exorbitant price they charge for their (censored) obituaries. My mom would have been offended — and I hope you are too.”
Gannett and the Courier Journal are now backtracking on their decision to cut the line, with Laurie Bolle, director of sales for Gannett’s West Group, calling it a mistake and noting that obituaries aren’t edited “based on political views.”
“Mrs. Williams’s obituary should have published as it was presented to our obits team and as requested by the family,” added Richard Green, the Courier Journal’s editor.
“In this political climate we now find ourselves, partisanship should have no role in deciding what gets included in an obituary that captures a loved one’s life — especially one as amazing as what Mrs. Williams led. I’m certain she is missed greatly by those who loved her. We send the family our deepest condolences and apologies.”
Williams told Yahoo Lifestyle that his family is “very pleased that [Green, the paper’s editor] has graciously apologized to our 92-year-old dad — a World War II veteran — and offered to re-run the obituary in its original form at no cost.”
He added that his mother suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary artery disease.
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