Newspaper apologizes to family for not publishing mother's anti-Trump obit

“Her passing was hastened by her continued frustration with the Trump administration" was the line the Louisville Courier Journal took issue with.
Image: Frances Irene Finley Williams and her husband, Bruce Williams.
Frances Irene Finley Williams and her husband, Bruce Williams.Courtesy of Cathy Duff

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By David K. Li

The Louisville Courier Journal apologized to a Kentucky family after the paper refused to run a paid obituary mentioning the dearly departed's less-than-fond feelings about President Donald Trump.

Frances Irene Finley Williams passed away on Nov. 21 and loved ones said they wanted to make it clear that the 87-year-old believed Trump had a bad impact on her final years.

The homemaker was critical of Trump's temper, immigration policies, views on women's rights and ethical standards, her daughter, Catherine Duff, and son, Art Williams, told NBC News on Thursday.

"The whole thing, the whole Trump administration infuriated her," Duff said.

The family paid their local newspaper, the Courier Journal, $1,684 to publish an obit that Williams' family thought was routine.

It listed her activities at St. Matthews United Methodist Church, her love of bridge, dancing, horse racing, babies, flowers, animals, Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson — and her disdain for Trump.

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“Her passing was hastened by her continued frustration with the Trump administration," the obit said.

The paper balked and said it wouldn't run the submitted obit unless the Trump line was removed.

"It had never occurred to us that this would be an issue," Duff said of her mom's afterlife swipe at Trump. "We thought it was just one more element of who she was. She was not shy about it."

The family said it allowed the anti-Trump line to be removed from what was published.

"We were in the midst of grieving, and it was Christmas. We were notified of this on Christmas Eve, and didn't feel like we had much of a choice and didn't have the emotional energy to fight that fight," Art Williams said.

And now, weeks later, the paper has apologized and said Williams' obit should have run as written.

"Mrs. Williams’ obituary should have published as it was presented to our obits team and as requested by the family,” Courier Journal editor Richard Green told columnist Joseph Gerth. “In this political climate we now find ourselves, partisanship should have no role in deciding what gets included in an obituary that captures a loved one’s life — especially one as amazing as what Mrs. Williams led."

The rejection, apology and ensuing publicity have given Williams a greater platform than she could ever have imagined.

“We think she would have been, as we used to say, 'tickled pink' by this all," Duff said. "In her opinion, anything that got people talking about how they feel about Trump would have been a good thing."

Williams is survived by her husband, two sisters, two children, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren

"I just regret that she's not around to talk to her about it," Duff said of her mom's obit brouhaha.