SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUTV) — A Salt Lake Tribune editorial criticizing Utah’s Republican leadership for their recent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is attracting backlash for a paragraph that suggested the implementation of a mass vaccination campaign and deployment of the National Guard to limit the movement of non-vaccinated people.
The editorial, published Saturday by the Tribune Editorial Board, was highly critical of a Friday news conference in which Gov. Spencer Cox and other state leaders urged Utahns who are symptomatic to stay home and assume they have COVID-19 and not necessarily get tested, due to low testing supply.
The Editorial Board accused the state of “waving the white flag of surrender in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Board further argued that the Omicron surge was predictable, but state leaders failed to deal with it effectively by instituting a vaccine mandate.
“Were Utah a truly civilized place, the governor’s next move would be to find a way to mandate the kind of mass vaccination campaign we should have launched a year ago, going as far as to deploy the National Guard to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere,” the Editorial Board wrote. “But it may be too late for that, politically and medically.”
That paragraph, near the end of the editorial, has attracted criticism from Republicans.
“The truth is Omicron is out of control everywhere. Even in places with mask and vaccine mandates. We always push vaccines, but even vaccinated ppl [sic] are catching it. It’s easy to take shots from the cheap seats but this is the sort of nonsense that makes editorial boards irrelevant,” Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted Saturday, while noting that she and Cox have urged Utahns to get vaccinated.
Chris Null, Salt Lake County Republican Party chair, also blasted the editorial over the weekend and demanded an apology from the paper.
Sen. Mike McKell (R-Spanish Fork) tweeted Monday, “Remember that time Paul Huntsman and the Salt Lake Tribune called on the National Guard to remove all unvaccinated from society? Wow, that was bat s--- crazy.”
Huntsman serves as chairman of the board of the Salt Lake Tribune, which operates as a nonprofit. The paper notes the Editorial Board “operates independently of the news staff.”
In an email Monday morning, Salt Lake Tribune executive editor Lauren Gustus told KUTV 2News the newspaper has no comment on the editorial at this time.
The Editorial Board also criticized President Joe Biden in Saturday’s piece, although less severely than Utah Republican leaders.
“Seeing the obvious reluctance of so many people to get, or to require, vaccinations has only now moved him to push to make tests and the most effective kind of masks available to everyone,” the Editorial Board wrote. “It’s the right thing to do, but months late.”