A newspaper that bills itself as the daily newspaper of the Cape and Islands allowed a right-leaning nonprofit to purchase a full-page ad trolling one of the Islands it purports to cover.
The Cape Cod Times ran a full-page ad from Citizens for Sanity, which mocked Martha’s Vineyard’s response to the nearly 50 migrants who were transported to the Island by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The ad was also in the Providence Journal. A different advertisement, printed by the Boston Globe, took a shot at U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and, in the process, also mocked Martha’s Vineyard. (Full disclosure: I was a bureau chief for the Cape Cod Times for 12 years, and briefly curated a newsletter for the Boston Globe. I left both news organizations on good terms.)
The Martha’s Vineyard Times won’t quote the ads, but they portrayed the Island in mocking tones, much the same way that Fox News host Tucker Carlson has on his show and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has repeatedly on Twitter.
The Martha’s Vineyard Times received an inquiry to run the same full-page ad that was run in both the Cape Cod Times and Providence Journal. Publisher Peter Oberfest rejected the ad, saying it did not meet the newspaper’s standards, and calling it “a very bad joke at the expense of human beings.”
On its website, Citizens for Sanity highlights some of the billboards and ads they’ve taken out across the country. The nonprofit’s mission statement is “to return common sense to America, to highlight the importance of logic and reason, and to defeat ‘wokeism’ and anti-critical thinking ideologies that have permeated every sector of our country and threaten the very freedoms that are foundational to the American Dream.”
Once they convince a news outlet like the Boston Globe or Cape Cod Times to run their advertisements, they wear it as a badge of honor on Twitter.
The newspaper ads are the latest attacks on the Island in the wake of the migrants and refugees being transported to the Vineyard with no notice, welcomed and cared for by volunteers, and then brought to Joint Base Cape Cod to an emergency shelter, which has better facilities and resources for the individuals to make the transition into housing.
But that hasn’t stopped followers of DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and Cruz, R-Texas, from skewing the narrative. Describing Martha’s Vineyard as a “tony enclave” that “deported” the migrants and refugees at the first opportunity. It’s a narrative that’s led to threatening messages to those who advocated for the migrants and refugees, like state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and some of the volunteers.
Anne Brennan (no relation), editor of the Cape Cod Times, referred questions about the ad to Audrey Pass, a spokesperson for the newspaper’s parent company, Gannett. Pass asked The Times to send her a copy of the ad in question, and then asked for the questions by email.
Pass referred the question to another Gannett spokesperson, who ignored the questions of whether the newspaper received any backlash, whether the ad was vetted, and whether there was any policy in place to handle such ads. Instead, the spokesperson issued a one-line statement. “Cape Cod Times and the Providence Journal published this ad on Sept. 22, 2022. We do not plan to run this advertisement again,” the email stated.
Heidi Flood, a spokesperson for the Boston Globe, emailed back a response to the Warren ad, also ignoring the questions, with a brief statement: “The Globe has no comment.”
Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and the author of a media blog as well as several books on journalism, said the news outlets could have rejected the ads in question.
“These ads are not only designed to inflame an already volatile situation, but they also promote falsehoods. As we all know, the Venezuelan immigrants were welcomed in Martha’s Vineyard with open arms,” Kennedy wrote. “Senator Warren is dragged into it for no reason except that she’s one of the right’s favorite targets. News organizations reject ads for violating their standards all the time, and these should have been rejected as well.”