Read the rest of Orsi’s letter to readers:
Our editorial process failed to keep this column from being published as it appeared, which did not meet our standards. We are adding additional, higher level review of the process for accepting and editing guest columns for publication.
We will continue to publish varied opinions from across the political spectrum on important local issues. But this decision fell short of our standards, and we apologize to our readers.
Melissa Radovich, the author of the guest column in question, failed to mention that she is the wife of a Proud Boys member, according to journalist Bryan Schott, who covers extremist groups for The Salt Lake Tribune.
Her husband, Nicholas Radovich, helped found the nonprofit Unmask Freedom as a “front group” for Proud Boys to “hold events and make social media posts,” Lisa Gialdini Schurr, a Sarasota resident and retired international tax attorney, wrote in a Herald-Tribune guest column published on June 24.
“The Proud Boys have worked through several other front groups over the last six months, as have their wives and supporters,” Schurr wrote. “And whenever their cover is blown, they simply move on to another front group.
“Lately, they seem to be working through a group called ‘Sarasota Freedom Friends,’ which appears to be an unincorporated organization. You may soon find them showing up at your front door – or at your church or synagogue – handing out campaign literature.”
Melissa Radovich wrote in her piece responding to Schurr’s words:
“When I think about the Proud Boys, I think of fathers, business owners and veterans. These fathers have spoken at many School Board meetings. They are concerned about the direction that their local schools are heading in, and I commend them for coming to School Board meetings.”
More than 40 Proud Boys members have been indicted on assault and other charges, and others face seditious conspiracy charges, The New York Times reported.
James Aymann, a social media user, tweeted a response on Sunday that seemed to echo what many social media users felt about Melissa Radovich’s article. “When I think of ‘Proud’ Boys, I think of traitorous seditionists that tried to violently overthrow our government,” he wrote. “I am a combat veteran!”
Georgetown University professor Thomas Zimmer wrote in a particularly noteworthy Twitter thread: “The author is actually right to think of the Proud Boys as ‘fathers, business owners and veterans.’ That does not, however, mean that they are fine people, but that fascistic militancy is not just a fringe phenomenon, that it instead very much appeals to ‘regular folks.’”
In fact, it’s a reminder that fascism’s key supporters always came from the middle of society, that the white supremacist terrorists who loved to don white hoods and burn crosses were often well-respected members of their communities – “reputable citizens,” so many of them.
And the fact that these people now aggressively appear at school board meetings should remind us that these far-right militants and white supremacists feel emboldened, that they are escalating their campaign to dominate the public square and establish a culture of violent threat.
View other social media responses to the Proud Boys defense: