Nebraska governor refuses to sign proclamation honoring book whose author criticized Trump

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) this week said he won't sign a proclamation honoring a book about a farming family, saying the author, who has criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE, is a “political activist.”

Ricketts told reporters that he would not sign a proclamation honoring “This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm,” by journalist and writer Ted Genoways, The Omaha World-Herald reported Tuesday.


The book, which Ricketts said he has not read, follows the life of a York County farmer named Rick Hammond.

“If you just go look, this author has been a political activist, has been very critical of our national leaders and so forth, and not really saying things that are going to bring Nebraskans together, but really trying to be somebody who is more divisive,” Ricketts said.

The book was selected for the 2019 “One Book One Nebraska” honor by The Nebraska Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress.

The state's governor has recognized the group's selection by issuing an annual proclamation since 2005.

Ricketts said the organizers of “One Book One Nebraska” are free to choose any author they wish, while adding, “I also decide who I’m going to do proclamations for.”

Genoways, a Lincoln-based writer, has been critical of Trump, the Keystone XL pipeline and Nebraska’s all-Republican delegation in Congress, The Associated Press reported.

The author tweeted on Monday, the day the proclamation had been expected, to vent his frustration over the governor's decision.

"All I can say for sure is that @GovRicketts is politicizing the naming of a One Book One Nebraska selection by demanding that the panel apply a political litmus test, only picking books that match with his goals or remain silent about them," Genoways wrote.

“Withholding or rescinding ceremonial honors is petty and shows a narrowness of spirit and of mind. More importantly, it’s a message to educators in public schools & universities and now to librarians & humanities officials: Don’t give a platform to opposing viewpoints,” he added.

Genoways told the Omaha World-Herald that while he has been “pointed at times” with political leaders, he is not “divisive.”

“I do see that as the role of a responsible journalist and writer,” Genoways said, adding that it is his responsibility to tell the stories of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers who “barely have money to make their payments, much less try to launch a PR campaign even on their own behalf.”

Rod Wagner, director of the Nebraska Library Commission, said “This Blessed Earth” is an award-winning book that has received national attention.

“Of course there are ideas in the book that people will not agree to, but I think that’s also a reason why it makes for a good one to consider and discuss,” Wagner told the World-Herald. “It’s a contrast of the modern farm with that of 40 years ago. It’s one that’s a subject of interest across Nebraska. People who have disagreements with ideas in the book will be able to talk about those.”