When community activist Keyaira Saunders finished second in a 12-person race for Dallas City Council, her supporters knew she would have to clear a tall hurdle to win the runoff against Carolyn King Arnold, who once held the District 4 seat.
The Dallas Morning News' editorial board didn't make the jump any easier for Saunders when, on Dec. 6, it published a “reluctant” endorsement of Arnold in the District 4 runoff race, which Arnold went on to win.
Saunders' supporters didn’t just think the endorsement was unfair. They complained it had “dangerous words.” Those words sparked a handful of Saunders' supporters to gather in front of the newspaper's offices downtown on Thursday to demand an apology.
The editorial highlighted Saunders’ financial past, saying, “Court records from Collin and Denton counties indicate apartment complexes have sought to evict Saunders in recent years. A mother of three children, Saunders said she had fallen on hard times financially but settled debts and was never evicted. Nonetheless, we find this troubling.”
Her nearly getting evicted, her backers argue, is not the sort of thing newspapers usually include in editorials. Besides an apology, they want a meeting with the paper's editorial board and a promise that the paper will change how it covers marginalized people.
“The way they treated Keyaira was aggressive. That was an attack on a young woman of color’s character because she isn’t rich,” said the Rev. Jeff Hood, a community and religious leader who talked about why the endorsement mattered so much. “The endorsement process creates a lot of access and legitimacy.”
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No one from The Dallas Morning News editorial board could be reached for comment.
Hood said he spoke with an editor about writing an op-ed for the paper but claims he was told it would be published only if he took out the word “prejudice.”
As she listened to speakers praise her character, Saunders became teary-eyed but collected herself to give her own message to the newspaper.
“I just want to say thank you, Dallas Morning News, for what you have done, because initially, when I received that call I thought, ‘Wow,’” she said. “I am not ashamed, because everything that I’ve been through made me who I am today. That’s why I’m the best representative. ... When that story came out, you opened doors for people to see themselves.”