Online Ad Campaign Urges Five Major Papers To Dump George Will

Ads urging five major newspapers to drop George Will following his offensive column demeaning campus sexual assault victims are being sponsored by the women's rights group UltraViolet and highlight a survivor who first told her story to Media Matters.

The ads seek the removal of Will's syndicated column from the Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Orlando Sentinel, The Detroit News, and Richmond Times-Dispatch. The group has been running an online petition urging The Washington Post, Will's flagship paper, to drop him as well.

“Rape is a crime that keeps women from having equal access to essential services, like education, and addressing that is essential to equality,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a release.

At issue is Will's June 6 column that sparked outrage from women's organizationsU.S. senators, and college rape survivors for suggesting that sexual assault victims -- or people who Will decided were only claiming to be sexual assault victims -- enjoyed “a coveted status that confers privileges.” To make his point, Will relied on an anecdote from a Philadelphia magazine article about a young woman from Swarthmore College, implying that he didn't believe her story qualified as an actual incident of assault.

That woman, Lisa Sendrow, spoke with Media Matters in an interview published earlier this week, stating: “I absolutely have not received any privileges from sexual assault. [Will] has clearly never experienced the fear of sexual assault ... He clearly has no idea how hard it is to sleep, to walk around, thinking at any moment this person that you live down the hall from could come out.”

Since the column was published, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it would stop running Will's column, while the Tribune Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold declined to run the particular campus rape column, telling Media Matters it was “misguided and insensitive.”

A statement from Sendrow is included in UltraViolet's press release about the ad campaign, in which she notes that survivors are “further victimized by people like George Will” when their stories are “dismissed, diminished, and brushed aside.” 

The ads are running online through banner advertisements and Facebook in the cities where the newspapers are located.

UltraViolet also offered the testimony of “Elizabeth B,” another survivor of campus sexual assault, who said: “In my junior year of college I was assaulted by a serial rapist while walking from campus to my apartment. People from the police to other students questioned my story or made comments that suggested I was responsible. George Will's destructive column brought the pain of that trauma right back for me, and makes it even harder for survivors to come forward. He has a right to free speech but no god-given right to write a biweekly column in the Washington Post or anywhere else.”