Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was one of the principal architects of the GOP’s massive $1.5 trillion tax bill, and the editorial board of his home state’s largest newspaper decided to recognize his efforts by naming him “Utahn of the Year.”
But a look beyond the editorial’s headline is enough to reveal that the honor is not all it appears to be. “The criteria are not set in stone,” the Salt Lake Tribune notes in its opening paragraph. “The Tribune has assigned the label to the Utahn who, over the past 12 months, has done the most. Has made the most news. Has had the biggest impact. For good or for ill.”
Several paragraphs in, it immediately becomes clear that the paper is spotlighting Hatch for doing ill, not good. Designating Hatch “Utahn of the Year,” the Tribune notes, “has everything to do with recognizing”:
- Hatch’s part in the dramatic dismantling of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
- His role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code.
- His utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.
“It would be good for Utah if Hatch, having finally caught the Great White Whale of tax reform, were to call it a career,” the Tribune concludes. “If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him.”
Judging by his first response, Hatch appeared not to have made it past the headline. In a tweet Monday afternoon, the Utah senator expressed gratitude “for this great Christmas honor from the Salt Lake Tribune.”
— Orrin Hatch (@OrrinHatch) December 25, 2017
Around 24 hours after the “grateful” tweet was sent, a Hatch spokesman took to Twitter to insist that the senator’s comments were “tongue-in-cheek.” (Some were unconvinced by the communication team’s response.)
Hatch’s initial expression of thanks sparked a flood of mockery on social media, with some suggesting that Hatch read the Tribune‘s editorial about as closely as he read the GOP’s 500-page tax bill.
“This is spectacular,” wrote Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten. “Orrin Hatch retweeted this article naming him Utahn of the Year, thanking them for the honor. As with the tax bill, he obviously never read it.”
Others piled on the ridicule:
Hatch: “Grateful for this great Christmas honor from the Salt Lake Tribune.”
I bet he didn’t read the tax bill, either.
— Howard Tayler (@howardtayler) December 26, 2017
Insane — Orrin Hatch thanks his hometown paper for its editorial — which he evidently didn’t read –in which it actually urges him to retire and slams him for “his utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.” https://t.co/fejsHh9mb1 https://t.co/rUv2IIlvqs
— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) December 26, 2017
You didn’t read it, did you? https://t.co/z2dwz11hm5
— Dwight Williams (@dwight_esq) December 26, 2017
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch played a substantial role in crafting the Republican tax bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last Friday.
Amid a flurry of backlash against a real-estate provision in the tax plan that could further enrich Trump and more than a dozen Senate Republicans, Hatch acknowledged that he personally authored what critics took to calling the “Corker Kickback,” and denied that it was buried in the bill out of self-interest.
According to an analysis by the International Business Times, the provision could shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off of Hatch’s taxes per year.