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Anti-Islam ad that runs in newspaper results in fired manager, donation to Muslim group, diversity training


'We got the apology. That was nice and dandy, but that's not enough.'

Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Following the publication of a full-page Sunday ad that predicted a nuclear attack in Nashville by "Islam," the Tennessean newspaper and its parent company Gannett said Monday that an advertising manager was fired, a donation was pledged to a Muslim advocacy group, and additional diversity training at the paper was planned, the Tennessean reported.

The ad was purchased by an Arkansas-based Future for America which focuses on end-of-world preaching, the paper added.

What are the details?

"The sales and design teams did not fully read the context of the ad content in its entirety and subsequently approved it," Kathy Jack-Romero, president of Gannett's local sales, told the Tennessean.

While a sales executive flagged the ad for review, the sales manager "agreed to proceed with the ad without fully reviewing the content," Jack-Romero added to the paper. That manager was terminated Monday, the Tennessean reported.

More from the paper:

Money from the ad sale is being refunded to the Arkansas nonprofit Future for America. The group signaled its intention to buy billboard advertising and mail letters to thousands of Nashvillians this week.

Separately, Gannett will donate the $14,000 value of the ad sale to the American Muslim Advisory Council, a Nashville-based advocacy group. The company is also giving the council $50,000 in advertising credit, which will be used for multiple Islamic organizations.

Gannett provides annual mandatory training on diversity and inclusion to all employees corporate-wide. Jack-Romero said the company would coordinate with the advisory council for a round of diversity and sensitivity training for The Tennessean newsroom and sales teams. Additional training will be done company-wide for the entire sales division.

"All sales executives, managers and creative development team members will be provided with refreshed training and policies around hate speech and other sensitive advertising content," Jack-Romero told the paper.

She added to the paper that Gannett and the Tennessean "completed our review, taken action against the manager responsible, strengthened our processes to ensure this never happens again, and taken steps to mitigate the tremendous harm caused to the community. We apologize for publishing this ad and we specifically apologize to the Muslim community, in Nashville and more broadly. This should have never happened."

What did Muslim leaders have to say?

Sabina Mohyuddin, executive director of the American Muslim Advisory Council, confirmed to the paper that executives from the Tennessean reached out to apologize and that the AMAC will accept the donation.

"We're grateful that they've opted not to benefit from the proceeds of that ad," Mohyuddin told the Tennessean. "We can use that for something good in the community."

Mohyuddin also told the paper the ad placed a "huge target" on Muslims throughout the region, recalling a yearslong effort to prevent the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro from opening in 2012. The Tennessean said construction equipment was set on fire in 2010 while the mosque was under construction and then bacon was draped over door handles and expletives were spray painted on the walls in 2017.

She also told the paper the AMAC would work with Tennessean managers on Islamophobia training.

At-large AMAC member Zulfat Suara — the first American Muslim to ever hold elected office in Nashville — told the paper that concrete changes and continued action are necessary to repair relations.

"We got the apology. That was nice and dandy, but that's not enough," Suara added to the Tennessean. "For us, it's making sure it doesn't happen again. For us, it's making sure it doesn't happen to another community."

What did the group that purchased the ad have to say?

Jeff Pippenger of Future for America told the paper his group tried to advertise with other outlets, but "their editorial process rejected the job."

He added that had the paper "told us out front they would not print it, we would have sought other avenues to advertise the message."

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