Conservative editorial writer Drew Johnson took to local and national media Thursday following his firing from the Chattanooga Times Free Press over a headline critical of President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, the day Obama visited Chattanooga, the newspaper published an editorial written by Johnson titled “Take Your Jobs Plan and Shove It, Mr. President.” The headline has since been changed in the online version.
Johnson said in multiple interviews the headline was a play on country musician Johnny Paycheck’s song “Take This Job and Shove It.”
A statement posted on the paper’s website said Johnson was fired for violating newsroom policy when he altered the editorial’s headline prior to publication:
“The headline was inappropriate for this newspaper. It was not the original headline approved for publication, and Johnson violated the normal editing process when he changed the headline. The newspaper’s decision to terminate Johnson had nothing to do with the content of the editorial, which criticized the president’s job creation ideas and Chattanooga’s smart grid. The Free Press page has often printed editorials critical of the president and his policies.”
In an interview with NewsChannel 9 Thursday afternoon, Johnson said he was fired for violating a policy that didn’t exist at the time he wrote the editorial.
“The next day I came in, I was told there would be a policy put in place because people had complained about the title, and I said, ‘That’s fine,'” he said. “And today, I was brought in, and [they] said, ‘You’re fired’ for violating that policy that wasn’t created until after I wrote the piece.”
Johnson also told NewsChannel 9 it’s common to use a headline as a placeholder that’s changed later.
“This is something that happens all the time, at least on the editorial side … of the paper, where we change the headline to something better, something more appropriate, and it’s never been a problem in the past,” he said.
But conservative news outlet The Blaze reported that Alison Gerber, managing editor of the Times Free Press, stands by the paper’s decision.
“Drew Johnson has been told on numerous occasions that he cannot make material changes to the Free Press page without the consent of the editor who is responsible for editing and proofing Drew’s work and that page,” Gerber said, according to the The Blaze. “On Monday, he waited until that editor had left for the day and changed the headline on the Obama editorial.”
In addition to speaking out on Twitter and local TV news, Johnson made live appearances on BlazeTV and Fox News to push back on the newspaper’s explanation of events.
In an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, Johnson jokingly referred to his situation being a “retroactive firing.”