Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) only reads the headlines — or so it would seem by the senator’s decision to highlight a newspaper editorial that’s highly critical of the conservative stalwart.
On Christmas Day, The Salt Lake Tribune named Hatch “Utahn of the Year.” Inside the accompanying editorial, the state’s largest daily newspaper explained that it recognizes people for the annual award “for good or for ill.” In the case of the long-serving senator, all the reasons given by the newspaper for naming Hatch were negative.
The honor “has everything to with recognizing” Hatch’s “utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power,” writes the paper’s editorial staff. The Tribune also highlighted the senator’s role in passing a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code that overwhelmingly benefits corporations and the nation’s wealthy. In addition, the newspaper scolded Hatch for his part in the “dramatic dismantling” of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
And still, the legislator, who has served seven terms in the Senate, chose to tweet an image of the newspaper’s front page, telling his follower that he is “grateful for this great Christmas honor from the Salt Lake Tribune.”
The senator’s office said Hatch did read the editorial and that the tweet was meant as “tongue-in-cheek.”
“Everyone celebrates Christmas differently,” Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said in a statement. “We all sincerely hope the members of the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board find joy this holiday season in something beyond baselessly attacking the service and integrity of someone who given 40 years for the people of Utah, and served as one of the most effective lawmakers of all time.”
For the newspaper, perhaps most galling is Hatch’s decision to run for another term. This goes against what Hatch promised in 2012 — the last time the senator was up for re-election — when the Republican promised that it would be his last campaign.
After 42 years, Hatch is already the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history. The Tribune contends it’s time for the 83-year-old to step aside and let other qualified political leaders represent the state in the U.S. Senate. By not giving other potential candidates a chance to mount a credible challenge, Hatch’s backtrack on his promise not to run again “is basically a theft from the Utah electorate,” the newspaper said.
The Tribune was also not pleased with his role in getting President Donald Trump to significantly reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. “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,” the newspaper wrote in the editorial. “A favor done in return for Hatch’s support of the president generally and of his tax reform plan in particular.”
Speaking in a condescendingly paternalistic fashion, Hatch said earlier this year that Native Americans were “manipulated” into their support for the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. “The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness,” Hatch said
Regarding the Republican tax bill that Trump signed into law on Friday, the Tribune noted that it is being praised for “benefiting corporations and investors in a way that backers see as a boost to the economy, even as opponents vilify it for favoring the rich and adding to the federal budget deficit,” the newspaper wrote.
“It would be good for Utah if Hatch, having finally caught the Great White Whale of tax reform, were to call it a career. If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him,” the newspaper said.
During his decades in the Senate, Hatch has consistently voted with the right-most wing of the Republican Party on both social and economic issues. In 1986, Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which demanded freedom for Nelson Mandela and imposed stiff economic sanctions to end minority white rule in South Africa. President Ronald Reagan, who maintained a close alliance with the notorious racist South African regime, vetoed the legislation, but his veto was overridden by Congress. Hatch voted against overriding Reagan’s veto.
Five years later, Hatch sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee that held hearings on Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court. It was in those hearings that Anita Hill alleged that Thomas, while her boss at the Department of Education and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, had sexually harassed her. Hatch has since said that Thomas and his wife deserve an apology from Hill.
“There’s no question in my mind she was coached by special interest groups,” Hatch said in 1991. “Her story’s too contrived. It’s so slick it doesn’t compute.”
Prior to Clarence Thomas and the anti-apartheid vote, in his first decade in the Senate, Hatch offered advice to Capitol Hill interns in 1983. “You should not fall in love with D.C.” he told them. “Elected politicians shouldn’t stay here too long.”
In its editorial naming Hatch “Utahn of the Year, the Tribune concluded: “If only he had listened to his own advice.”
This article was updated at 2:15 p.m. ET on December 26, 2017, to include a statement from a spokesman for Sen. Orrin Hatch.