Longtime Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass refused to apologize to liberal colleagues who accused him of writing an “anti-Semitic” piece about billionaire George Soros, saying the “American tradition” of free speech has been “swept away” by cancel culture.
“The essential point? The odious, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire George Soros is a puppet master controlling America’s big cities does not deserve a mainstream voice, especially at a time when hate crimes are rising,” the Chicago Tribune Guild Executive Board wrote.
Tribune editor-in-chief Colin McMahon even announced plans to change the paper’s format as a result, moving opinion columns further away from news.
“And let’s be clear: This column from the Tribune’s lead columnist does a disservice to our entire institution, not just the editorial board, for which he nominally works,” the guild added, demanding an apology for “indefensible invocation of the Soros tropes.” But Kass doesn’t plan on obliging.
Kass explained his side of the story in a harshly worded reaction that was published on Wednesday headlined, “What happened to an America where you could freely speak your mind?” In the piece, Kass refused to apologize and said he is a victim of cancel culture.
“The angry left-handed broom of America’s cultural revolution uses fear to sweep through our civic, corporate and personal life. It brings with it attempted intimidation, shame and the usual demands for ceremonies of public groveling,” Kass wrote. “It is happening in newsrooms in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. And now it’s coming for me, in an attempt to shame me into silence.”
Kass then explained that he penned his column last week on the “growing sense of lawlessness in America’s urban areas” that obviously didn’t go over well with liberal colleagues or the paper’s union.
“The Tribune newspaper union, the Chicago Tribune Guild, which I have repeatedly and politely declined to join, wrote an open letter to management defaming me, by falsely accusing me of religious bigotry and fomenting conspiracy theories,” Kass wrote. “Newspaper management has decided not to engage publicly with the union. So I will.”
The columnist then laid out the facts of his argument, starting with a July 22 column headlined, “Something grows in the big cities run by Democrats: An overwhelming sense of lawlessness,” which he wrote, “explored the connections between soft-on-crime prosecutors and increases in violence along with the political donations of left-wing billionaire George Soros.”
Kass believes that Soros’ influence on local prosecutors in certain liberal states is “undeniable” and has been widely reported.
“I did not mention Soros’ ethnicity or religion,” he wrote. “You’d think that before wildly accusing someone of fomenting bigoted conspiracy theories, journalists on the union’s executive board would at least take the time to Google the words ‘Soros,’ ‘funding’ and ‘local prosecutors.’”
Kass then linked to several reports from prominent publications that detail Soros supporting liberal candidates over opponents who are tougher on crime.
“Agree with me or not — and isn’t that the point of a newspaper column? — I owe readers a clear statement of what I will do and not do: I will not apologize for writing about Soros. I will not bow to those who’ve wrongly defamed me. I will continue writing my column,” Kass wrote.
“The left doesn’t like my politics. I get that. I don’t like theirs much, either,” Kass added. “But those who follow me on social media know that I do not personally criticize my colleagues for their politics. I try to elevate their fine work. And I tell disgruntled readers who don’t like my colleagues’ politics that ‘it takes a village.’”
Kass ended his rebuttal to the union by declaring “human beings do not wish to see themselves as cowards. They want to see themselves as heroes,” but the current climate has impacted that notion.
“As they are shaped and taught to fear even the slightest accusation of thought crime, they will not view themselves as weak for falling in line. Instead, they will view themselves as virtuous. And that is the sin of it,” he wrote. "Those who do not behave will be marginalized. But those who self-censor will be praised. Yet what of our American tradition of freely speaking our minds? That too, is swept away.”
The Chicago Tribune Guild declined comment when reached by Fox News.