Republican congressional candidate Tom Kean, Jr. has rejected an invitation to meet with the Star-Ledger editorial board, saying the newspaper is biased and that he’s not interested in seeing their endorsement.
Kean alleged that the Star-Ledger editorial page editor, Tom Moran, “has made frequent statements and written numerous opinion pieces that intentionally distort my positions and record.”
“They include baseless character attacks and seem to be crafted to cater to my opponent’s paid media campaign,” Kean said. “As he did in 2020, Mr. Moran biased himself long before this endorsement process began.”
Instead, Kean says he will meet with other newspapers instead, according to a letter he sent to the Star-Ledger that was obtained by the New Jersey Globe.
Kean, the former minority leader of the New Jersey State Senate, said the Star-Ledger “once again failed to provide the voters of New Jersey’s 7th congressional district with any relevant, meaningful, factual or unbiased coverage whatsoever.”
While Kean says he continues to have a good relationship with Star-Ledger reporters, his campaign “has no confidence in Mr. Moran’s ability to have an honest conversation.”
This the second time Kean has eschewed a Star-Ledger editorial board meeting. He did that during his challenge to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) two years ago for largely the same reasons.
Despite the Star-Ledger’s endorsement of Malinowski, Kean came within one percentage point of winning the seat.
Moran pushed back in a Tweet on Tuesday.
“Yeah, won’t meet or answer a single question in writing from day one of the campaign,” Moran wrote. “Like, your position on abortion? Your view on trump’s big lie? Our ‘bias’ or his cowardice?”
Back in the days when Kean’s father and grandfather were running for office, the Star-Ledger endorsement meant actual votes. In 1981, the Star-Ledger endorsed former Assembly Speaker Thomas Kean for governor; Kean went on to defeat Democrat Jim Florio by 1,797 votes statewide, 49.46% to 49.38%.
But in recent years, support from the newspaper, which has experienced a monumental loss of readers, has become less relevant.
In 2009, the Star-Ledger endorsed independent Christopher Daggett for governor against incumbent Jon Corzine and GOP challenger Chris Christie, but Daggett received just 5.8% of the statewide vote. Four years later, they endorsed Christie, but three months after the election, Moran said he regretted the move.
Last year, the newspaper endorsed Gov. Phil Murphy for a second term by telling their readers to hold their noses and vote for him because they liked Republican Jack Ciattarelli less. In 2020, their top executive acknowledged last year that the “Star-Ledger editorial board clearly leans left, as does New Jersey.”
Murphy’s inner circle debated whether to decline the Star-Ledger’s invitation. They eventually accepted, but refused to allow the Star-Ledger to record the meeting to prevent them from using edited snippets. The Star-Ledger did not disclose that to the Ciattarelli campaign, who found out on their own that the newspaper was attempting to subject him to a different set of rules.
It’s not clear whether Gannett-owned newspapers will endorse candidates this year.
An internal report obtained by the Washington Post in June said the company wants to scale back on political endorsements because there are “alienating readers and becoming obsolete.”
“They don’t believe we have the expertise to tell anyone what to think on most issues,” the committee the Gannett report said. “They perceive us as having a biased agenda.”
According to the document from Gannett, “editorials, guest commentary columns, op-eds and letters to the editor have lost relevance in an age when opinions overflow on social media.”
This story was updated at 9:38 AM on September 28 with comment from Moran