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‘Unfit to clean toilets’: USA Today’s unusually forceful editorial about Trump

President Trump says he and his supporters are “proud to be the deplorables,” a term that Hillary Clinton used in 2016 to describe some of Trump’s supporters. (Video: The Washington Post)

Hot takes aren't really USA Today's thing, but the newspaper's editorial board delivered a pillar of fire to hotel rooms across the country Wednesday.

Writing about President Trump's sexually suggestive statement that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) “would do anything” for campaign contributions, USA Today declared that “a president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.”

If you're thinking this is just more criticism from another liberal editorial board, you would be wrong. As the unofficial newspaper of U.S. travelers, USA Today strives for political neutrality, even on its opinion page. It has never endorsed a presidential candidate.

“Our editorial board believes in a common-sense, centrist approach in which the two sides work together to find reasonable compromises to solve the nation's problems,” editorial page editor Bill Sternberg said in an online video last year.

Sternberg added that USA Today does not endorse presidential candidates because “as a national newspaper, we don't presume to tell our readers in every region which is the right choice for them. . . . Another reason is that we don't care to be aligned with either major political party. Many readers don't understand the wall between the editorial page and the news section. So if we were to endorse a Republican candidate, it might create an inaccurate perception that our news coverage would tilt toward the GOP, and the same goes for a Democrat.”

USA Today has viewed Trump as a special case, however. Although it did not editorialize in favor of any presidential candidate in 2016, the paper did offer this advice to readers: “Resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.”

USA Today had “disendorsed” a politician only once before — in 1991, when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was the Republican nominee for governor of Louisiana.

In its latest editorial, published online Tuesday night, USA Today wrote that “President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.”

“This isn't about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions,” the editorial board continued. “Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt. Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.”

That Trump could evoke such a strong rebuke from a newspaper editorial board that tries to remain nonpartisan is pretty striking. It shows that his antics are objectionable not only to his natural foes but also to some who generally avoid taking sides.