©May 12, 2014
When The Advocate first started running Quin Hillyer’s columns, I assumed they were syndicated. I figured it was okay to run his pieces occasionally so we could be exposed to the far right agenda without having to actually access far right sources. I was dismayed when I realized he is billed as a member of the Advocate editorial staff and writes these columns specifically for its readers in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
I thought the Advocate’s editorial staff and syndicated columnists already presented a fairly good philosophical balance including conservatives, liberals and moderates. I viewed it as slightly skewed toward conservatism, but that was okay. With the addition of Hillyer, the paper’s editorial posture took a hard right turn.
Among other things, I wondered if his inclusion was intended as a direct counterpoint to James Gill. In that regard, it is interesting that The Advocate has recently published 2 readers’ letters criticizing the presence of James Gill on the editorial staff. NONE critical of Quin Hillyer have seen the letters page. Surely, at least two people have submitted printable letters critical of Hillyer. Heck, I sent in two. And I know more than a few other people who find Mr. Hillyer’s columns offensive.
Hillyer’s May 11, 2014, column is emblematic of why I object to his presence as a regular columnist. It fans the flames of hostility toward our President while unabashedly cheerleading for the policies of our Governor. Expressions of opinion are one thing. Hate-mongering, coupled with views so distorted as to bridge on prevarication, are something else. Columns like his are better suited to blogs like The Hayride and other venues that make no effort to be balanced in any way.
James Gill was born in the United Kingdom, is a graduate of Liverpool University and wrote for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans before joining The Advocate editorial staff in May 2013. He is currently one of 10 finalists for the Molly National Journalism Prize, established by The Texas Observer to recognize works that focus on civil liberties and social justice. The winner will be announced June 3. The prize is named after the late Molly Ivins whose columns once graced The Advocate’s editorial pages. Gill’s columns are noted for lampooning politicians and often take a humorous turn, as was the case with Molly Ivins’ syndicated columns. Few would consider Gill’s columns mean-spirited or his views extremist, no matter how liberal they are.
Quin Hillyer is a graduate of Georgetown University (A.B. in government and theology, 1987) and a recipient of the Carmage Walls Commentary Award from the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and the Green Eyeshade Award for commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists (formerly Sigma Delta Chi). He was born and raised in New Orleans, but now lives in Mobile, Alabama.
He worked for the Times-Picayune before joining Bob Livingston’s gubernatorial campaign staff in 1987. As Chair of the Louisiana Young Republicans in the late 80s and early 90s, he was a member of the bipartisan Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, a ten member group actively involved in bringing forth facts to repudiate the legitimacy of David Duke’s claims to have abandoned his white supremacy agenda. He was briefly managing editor of New Orleans Gambit magazine before joining Congressman Livingston’s staff in 1991 and becoming his press secretary in 1995.
Hillyer returned to private sector journalism in 1997, working for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, theMobile Register, The American Spectator(with whom he is still affiliated), The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times and the National Review (with whom is still affiliated) and writing for others. He ran for and finished 4th in the November 2013 Republican primary election for the United States House of Representatives from Alabama’s 1st congressional district.
While his background has significant depth and is consistent with conservative views, extremism would not seem its logical product. One would expect commentary more along the lines of William F. Buckley, Jr. than Rush Limbaugh, but reading his columns is often like listening to Limbaugh. Fiery political evangelism is as good a description as any.
As far as the columns he has written for publication in the Advocate newspapers so far, most share a singular theme. Ten of his columns are archived at The Advocate website. Review them and you will find that seven seem to have little purpose other than promotion of Governor Jindal’s policies and future aspirations, including one completely unambiguous in its intent titled, “Jindal shows clear national appeal” (March 29, 2014).
In his very first Advocate column (March 21, 2014), he managed to attack the rest of the Advocate editorial staff and the President while promoting Governor Jindal. That one is titled, “Gov. Jindal was justified in jamming President Obama”. His most recent column, mentioned above, and his April 26 columns are refrains of this theme. His April 8 column supports the governor’s use of coastal wetlands funding to “bridge the gap” in the budget. His April 19 and May 3 columns support the governor’s position that the lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority is illegitimate.
A cynic might believe Mr. Hillyer was brought on board to promote Governor Jindal’s campaign for President rather than to just provide a strong conservative voice for The Advocate. If that is true, shouldn’t the publisher clearly state his support for the Governor and his political aspirations? Rolfe McCollister (Greater Baton Rouge Business Report publisher) is certainly not unbiased, but he is also not coy about his support for the governor’s political future. If the Advocate is to become the voice of Bobby Jindal, let’s at least be honest about it.