Newspaper controlled by Pittsburgh Pirates owner runs anti-LGBTQ editorial

The Winchester Star claims it has "a long history of supporting and advocating for LGBTQ rights."

The Winchester Star attacked transgender inclusion and marriage equality as "dubious 21st century achievements."
The Winchester Star attacked transgender inclusion and marriage equality as "dubious 21st century achievements." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Winchester Star, a daily newspaper in Virginia that claims to be pro-LGBTQ, published an editorial recently that both called into question the right of same-sex couples to marry and the very existence of transgender people.

The publication, part of the Ogden Newspapers chain, is controlled by the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, Robert Nutting.

As first noted by the progressive blog Blue Virginia, the paper published an editorial on Wednesday slamming Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) for boycotting President Donald Trump’s recent appearance at the 400th anniversary commemoration of the Jamestown settlement.

“Gov. Northam?” the paper opined. “He made a speech earlier in the day, a few hours before Mr. Trump, speaking not of the tradition’s majesty, but of Virginia’s dubious 21st century achievements — i.e., homosexual marriage, elevation of the transgender lifestyle, etc. And then disgracefully departed, nowhere to be seen or heard when Mr. Trump spoke.”


ThinkProgress reached out to Nutting, whose Pittsburgh Pirates have gone out of their way to market themselves as an LGBTQ-friendly franchise, to ask whether he stood by his paper’s editorial.

Nutting did not respond, however Mike Gochenour — publisher of the Winchester Star — emailed on Monday to apologize for the “confusion” caused by the editorial.

“The use of the word ‘dubious’ in the editorial was in reference to the process that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring used to legalize same-sex marriage in Virginia (it was unilateral w/ no legislative process). ‘Dubious’ was not in reference to same-sex marriage, etc. In hindsight, the editorial page editor realizes that wasn’t clear in his editorial and sees [how] it could be misinterpreted,” Gochenour wrote.

“The Winchester Star has a long history of supporting and advocating for LGBTQ rights (see some links to recent articles below) and will continue to do so,” he added.

Gochenour included links to three previous news stories in the publication that had addressed LGBTQ issues, though none were editorials. He offered no defense nor clarification of the anti-transgender language.


The publisher’s explanation of the term “dubious” does not square with the facts. Gochenour claims that Virginia’s Democratic attorney general unilaterally legalized same-sex marriage in Virginia, but this is demonstrably false. When Virginians challenged the state’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriages, Attorney General Herring announced that he agreed with their challenge and would not use his office to defend an unconstitutional law. He did, however, appeal the ruling to allow others to defend it before the Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court made clear in its Obergefell ruling some months later that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages and all other state bans were unconstitutional. The decision was hardly a unilateral fiat by Herring, but rather an accurate reading of the U.S. Constitution.

Gochenour’s claim that The Winchester Star is clearly pro-LGBTQ is not buttressed by the outdated “homosexual marriage” phrasing or the suggestion that transgender identities are a “lifestyle.” The suggestion that protecting the legal rights of transgender people is dubious also throws that assertion into question.