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SL Tribune names Orrin Hatch 'Utahn of the Year,' blisters him in editorial explanation

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SL Tribune names Orrin Hatch 'Utahn of the Year,' blisters him in editorial explanation (Photo: Larry D. Curtis / KUTV)

(KUTV) The Salt Lake Tribune named Sen. Orrin Hatch the Utahn of the Year on its front page and blistered him in an editorial explaining why.

"For his role in the shrinking of Bears Ears and the passage of a tax bill, Sen. Orrin Hatch is The Tribune’s Utahn of the Year," the Tribune's headline read on Christmas Day's cover.

The story, by Tribune Washington bureau chief Thomas Burr, touted some big accomplishments for Hatch, who is in his seventh term as a U.S. senator and is considering his eighth term -- at 83-years-old. Thirteen pages later in the same section of the paper, the paper ran with the headline, "Tribune Editorial: Why Orrin Hatch is Utahn of the Year."

"These things are often misunderstood. So, lest our readers, or the honoree himself, get the wrong impression, let us repeat the idea behind The Salt Lake Tribune’s Utahn of the Year designation," the editorial read. After explaining what the title was not given for, in a bulleted list it explained why it was given:

  • Hatch’s part in the dramatic dismantling of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
  • His role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code.
  • His utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.

Despite the Tribune's words inside, it appears initially Hatch, or someone with his Twitter account, may have missed the editorial inside the paper.

Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock issued a response Tuesday"

Everyone celebrates Christmas differently. We all sincerely hope the members of the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board find joy this holiday season in s omething beyond baselessly attacking the service and integrity of someone who given (sic) 40 years for the people of Utah, and served as one of the most effective lawmakers of all time, just to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for clicks.

Hatch is in his 40th year as a Utah senator and is third in line for the presidency and weilds a lot of Washington power as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The cover story refenced an August 2017 poll that 78 percent of Utahns did not want Hatch to retire after this term. He told KUTV in late October that he planned to run again. But it could be argued that he has rarely or never had more clout in his career.

“This is pretty hard to beat, I have to admit,” Hatch told the Tribune. "I feel like I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I think I’ve put Utah on the map, to a large degree. Not that it wasn’t, but it’s a bit more. Utah hasn’t been left behind as far as I can see."

The editorial calls for Hatch to end his career.

"If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him," the Tribune wrote.

The editorial suggests shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments was a political favor from President Trump to Hatch.

As has been argued in this space before, the presidential decision to cut the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half and to slash the size of the brand new Bears Ears National Monument by some 90 percent has no constitutional, legal or environmental logic.
To all appearances — appearances promoted by Hatch — this anti-environmental, anti-Native American and, yes, anti-business decommissioning of national monuments was basically a political favor the White House did for Hatch. A favor done in return for Hatch’s support of the president generally and of his tax reform plan in particular.

It said Hatch has the president's ear but has "earned a strong rebuke among Democrats and independents who used to count on the Utah senator as a bipartisan dealmaker."

Trump praised Hatch during his visit to Utah's Capitol building to a sign the order shrinking the national monuments, calling him a fighter and suggesting he should continue to serve Utah "for a very long time to come."

The Salt Lake Tribune is a media partner with KUTV.