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Herald Editor Apologizes After Armando Salguero Slams a Vet For "Sucking as a Soldier" UPDATED

If you're a columnist at a big metro daily, there's never really a great time to lash out at a Vietnam vet by telling him he "must still be pissed off he lost" the war and adding, "I'm sure the South Vietnamese appreciated you sucking as a soldier, failing in your mission and then leaving." But doing so within shouting distance of Memorial Day weekend is a plus-one bonehead move.

Just ask Armando Salguero, the Miami Herald's Dolphins-centric columnist. Herald executive editor Mindy Marques has apologized and Random Pixels has published Salguero's long, heated exchange with a reader and veteran.

Update: Salguero has sent his own apology, saying, "The most hurtful aspect of this incident for me is that it belies who I am and what I believe. I have never served in the U.S. armed forces but I respect the service of the men and women who have." Click through for his full response.

"While there can be disagreements about his opinions on sports -- and I do not know the full extent of your correspondence -- we do not condone this type of response to a reader," Marques writes in a message sent to the reader and forwarded to Random Pixels.

Salguero's exchange began with a reader named Billy Johnston earlier this month after Johnston took exception to a column bemoaning Tallahassee's refusal to OK an election for Dolphins Stadium upgrades.

You can read the full exchange over at Random Pixels, but suffice to say that Johnston wasn't pulling any punches -- and was happily pushing the race card as well, calling the piece "third world rubbish" and slamming Salguero's family.

"It is no surprise that your family has a past history of conforming to those who desire to control the masses," Johnston writes. "Little wonder the country your parents ran from, that it's citizens hasn't been able to unleash itself from its tyranical (sic) leader."

Salguero's first reply was fairly measured, telling Johnston, "You don't know me or my family."

(Though he does hit on some classic Tea Party rhetoric as well, telling Johnson " You are totally bought in to the class warfare narrative ... (That is the) reason places go from being first-world paradises to third-world dumps." Salguero became a bit of a conservative hero two years ago when he sent a newsroom-wide email blasting the decision to run an anti-Sarah Palin column.)

Johnston struck back, again intoning against a "Latino sports crowd" that supposedly prefers soccer to football.

That's when Salguero went off the rails, sending this on May 8:

Hey Billie, you must be still pissed off you lost in Vietnam. Talk about leaving people behind ... I'm sure the South Vietnamese appreciated you sucking as a soldier, failing in your mission and then leaving.

I'm wondering how you feel that immigrants like me came here with nothing and now we run the place? There are three Cubans in the US senate. Did you know that? By the way, cubans love baseball not soccer, so that piece of bigoted shit coming from you doesn't apply to me. I suggest you blow it out your ass old man.

Oof. It's tough to blame Salguero for getting defensive at Johnson's anti-Latino race baiting. But it's also tough to understand how a major daily columnist could touch the "you were a shitty soldier" third rail of insult politics and not think it would come back to bite him in the ass.

Marques' apology, which she forwarded to Random Pixels as well as emailing to Johnson, promises to "deal with the matter as an internal employee issue."

Salguero hasn't tweeted or updated his Herald blog since last week, and he hasn't responded to Random Pixels' emails. Riptide has also emailed him and we'll update this post if we hear back.

Update: Salguero sent Riptide a statement apologizing for the exchange with Johnston:

I apologize. I sent an angry, unprofessional and inappropriate response to a reader with whom I was engaged in a heated email exchange, and I should be better than that.

I receive thousands of emails disagreeing with me and have been able to manage those exchanges. I should have been able to make my points to this reader without attacking his service to this country.

The most hurtful aspect of this incident for me is that it belies who I am and what I believe. I have never served in the U.S. armed forces but I respect the service of the men and women who have. This isn't lip service. I have lived by this credo when no light was being shed on my comportment.

I was wrong to let myself be baited into a personal exchange with a reader, and I deeply regret my comments.

Armando Salguero

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