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US: Santa Barbara News-Press owner compares COVID restrictions to Nazi Germany; editor exits

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LOS ANGELES — The Santa Barbara News-Press lost its editor-in-chief this weekend after the newspaper published an editorial by owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw that accused Democratic lawmakers of using the coronavirus for their own political agenda and compared stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany.

“Our liberties are being stripped for what, a virus?? Think about this,” McCaw wrote in the editorial, published Friday and titled “We are living in tyranny.” 

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She continued: “If this country can be put into this situation by a virus, what would it take to completely turn us into the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany? We are not that far away now, having to stand in line to get into supermarkets … .”

A note at the end of the editorial read: “Wendy P. McCaw is the co-publisher of the News-Press and the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the SBNP staff.”

On Saturday, the Santa Barbara Independent reported that News-Press Editor-in-Chief Nick Masuda had stepped down from his 18-month stint at the helm of the paper. His last byline on the News-Press website is dated April 30. 

Whether Masuda was fired or quit is still unclear, according to the Independent. When reached by a Los Angeles Times reporter, Masuda confirmed that his last day at the paper was Friday but said he had no other comment at this time.

McCaw has long been a controversial media figure in California. The ex-wife of a cellular phone pioneer, she bought the Santa Barbara News-Press in 2000, one year after she was ranked 159th on Forbes’ list of America’s richest individuals.

a sign on the side of a building: Bill Johannes, back to camera, holds signs with others in support of the Santa Barbara News-Press during a rally in front of the paper's headquarters in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. The publication lost its editor-in-chief this weekend after the newspaper published an editorial that accused Democratic lawmakers of using the coronavirus for their own political agenda and compared stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany. © Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS Bill Johannes, back to camera, holds signs with others in support of the Santa Barbara News-Press during a rally in front of the paper's headquarters in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. The publication lost its editor-in-chief this weekend after the newspaper published an editorial that accused Democratic lawmakers of using the coronavirus for their own political agenda and compared stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany.  

Under McCaw the paper has taken a stand against turkey dinner on Thanksgiving — “a tradition that involves the death of an unwilling participant” — and attacked the minimum wage and a living wage proposal, saying they “force a counterfeit value on labor.”

In 2015 scores of protesters marched outside the News-Press offices after the paper ran a front-page headline that read “Illegals line up for driver’s licenses.” In 2016 it was the first of only three American newspapers to endorse Trump for president. 

The report from the Independent suggests that Masuda was a good editor who brought more local news to the front page of the paper in his short reign.

“Masuda’s departure is no cause for celebration — it is a sad victory for the bitter, the paranoid, the kooky and the wacky,” wrote Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent.

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