Newspaper apologizes for 'horrific' ad that claims 'Islam' was going to bomb Nashville

Tim Stelloh

Executives at a newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, apologized Sunday for publishing what a top editor called a "horrific" full-page advertisement that said "Islam" was going to detonate a nuclear device in the city next month.

The ad in The Tennessean, which also said President Donald Trump "typified many biblical leaders," was from a religious group that the newspaper described in a non-bylined story as "fringe."

Kevin Gentzel, the chief revenue officer at Gannett, which owns The Tennessean, said the company was launching an investigation to determine how the ad was published.

"We strongly condemn the message and apologize to our readers," he tweeted.

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The editor of the paper, Michael Anastasi, was quoted in The Tennessean as saying there had "clearly" been a breakdown in how the newspaper's ads are scrutinized.

"The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances," he said, according to the paper. "It is wrong, period, and should have never been published."

The story said the advertisement had been pulled from future editions.

Journalists and advocacy groups condemned the ad. A Tennessean Statehouse reporter on furlough said she was "sick" after seeing messages from readers canceling their subscriptions.

"I'm frustrated I can't find out more due to furlough," tweeted the reporter, Natalie Ellison. She reminded readers that she "and other @Tennessean reporters have consistently identified and written about local anti-Islam efforts."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations offered to help the newspaper update its training policies, while Yasmine Taeb, a lawyer with the Democratic advocacy group Demand Progress, said the newspaper needed to better understand how such an ad could run in a state with a significant number of hate crimes.

State law enforcement agencies reported 170 incidents in 2018, the 11th most in the country, according to the FBI.

"Publishing an appalling and hateful ad will only cause further hatred and incite violence against Muslims," Taeb said.