Published August 02, 2013
A Tennessee newspaper editor who was fired for a headline critical of President Obama says his bosses bowed to pressure from the president's supporters, claiming he wouldn't have been canned if he had said the same of former President George W. Bush.
Drew Johnson's editorial, titled "Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough," went viral and drew national attention earlier this week when Obama visited the city.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial page editor was later ousted. The newspaper released a statement Thursday saying Johnson had been fired for "placing a headline on an editorial outside of normal editing procedures."
But in an interview with Fox News, Johnson said that policy -- requiring that last-minute changes to headlines be approved -- was only implemented after they published his piece.
Johnson explained he was simply thinking of the "Take This Job and Shove It" song and thought it was an "apt title," and used it to replace a "placeholder" headline. He said his criticism of the president's jobs plans was in line with the views of many readers, but his bosses were dealing with complaints.
"(The editor) said that she was disappointed in the headline, that she thought it was crass and she'd gotten a lot of complaints by Obama supporters," he said, recalling a meeting he had with the editor earlier in the week.
"Today I come into work and am told that I'm fired for violating that policy that wasn't put in place until the day after I wrote the piece," Johnson told Fox News on Thursday, calling it a "retroactive firing."
Johnson has adamantly defended himself, in a series of interviews and on Twitter.
He argues that while the execs at the paper slammed his headline, they also left it up online as the story drew considerable Internet traffic.
"I just became the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper's most-read article," he tweeted.
He later added: "To answer a question I've gotten a lot: I feel confident that if the headline had referenced Bush instead of Obama, I would still have a job."
The newspaper denied Johnson's firing had anything to do with the content of his editorial. They said the headline was "not the original headline approved for publication" and that Johnson "violated the normal editing process" by changing it.
"The Free Press page has often printed editorials critical of the president and his policies," the newspaper stated.
The Times Free Press has two editorial pages -- one conservative and the other liberal.
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes contributed to this report.