By Bruce Golding
The New York Times sparked fireworks with an Independence Day report on the political implications of displaying the American flag — just weeks after being forced to defend an editorial writer who said she was “really disturbed” to see Old Glory flown by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
The Times article — with the online headline “A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite” — suggests that Trump supporters have embraced the flag “so fervently” that liberals have “all but ceded the national emblem to the right.”
“Today, flying the American flag from the back of a pickup truck or over a lawn is increasingly seen as a clue, albeit an imperfect one, to a person’s political affiliation in a deeply divided nation,” the Times tweeted on Saturday, with a link to their piece, “A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite.”
In the piece, author Sarah Maslin Nir quotes a few individuals who believe that the flag has become so politicized that they now think twice about flying it outside their homes or businesses.
“What was once a unifying symbol – there is a star on it for each state, after all – is now alienating to some, its stripes now fault lines between people who kneel while ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ plays and those for whom not pledging allegiance is an affront,” Nir wrote.
She also quotes a Long Island farmer, Peter Treiber Jr., describing how he had to reveal his “liberal leanings” to strike a deal with a greenmarket customer who was leery because his family farm is marked by an old truck emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes.
“She said, ‘Oh, whew. You know, I wasn’t so sure about you, I thought you were some flag-waving something-or-other,’” Treiber said.
The article immediately prompted a fierce backlash from conservatives on Twitter, with city Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island ) accusing the Times of displaying political bias.
“Flying your flag is offensive you guys. #Happy4thOfJuly,” he tweeted, along with an American flag emoji.
US Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) tweeted, “Apparently loving our country’s flag is now offensive. Disgusting.”
And Erick Erickson, a Georgia-based radio host and Fox News contributor, invoked the Vietnam War-era slogan of “America, love it or leave it.”
“So so stupid. If the American flag offends you, move elsewhere,” he tweeted.
The controversy erupted less than a month after Times editorial board member Mara Gay told MSNBC that she was “really disturbed” to see flags bashing President Biden, supporting Trump “and some cases, just dozens of American flags,” flying from pick-up trucks during a weekend trip to Long Island.
In response to online attacks, the Times defended Gay’s remarks, saying, “Her argument was that Trump and many of his supporters have politicized the American flag.”