Indignant Duluthians lit up social media Friday after a Rolling Stone piece written after President's Donald Trump's visit this week dissed their North Shore city.
"Lake Superior's merciless beauty crashes up against a town whose shoreside skyline is dominated by stolid, brutalist mid-century relics and precarious-seeming industrial shipping contraptions, rusty and mostly silent," the magazine said. "Downtown, every surface is covered with a thin layer of grime. It is, in other words, potential [that word was added later] Trump Country."
Mayor Emily Larson's response, shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook, was roundly lauded for firing back with a biting but positive open letter.
"We aren't buying the label of Trump Country," she wrote. "We are more than one person."
The article, written by Minneapolis resident Ana Marie Cox, said, "If you're wondering why Trump came to Duluth, that's because Duluth is a reverse oasis in a place known for its natural beauty, good health outcomes, relatively low crime and high standard of living. Like the more prosperous areas of Minnesota, Duluth is strikingly white. Look deeper than skin and you'll find Duluth is a struggling postmanufacturing cipher with the highest drug overdose rate in the state.
"U.S. Steel closed its gigantic Morgan Park plant in 1981, causing a slow cascade of desolation that stilled the concrete and hardboard plants and emptied out the grain elevators," it continued. "Today, the small city of 80,000 scrapes by on tourism and as a port. There's a paper plant that has been on the verge of closing for 10 years. Duluth has a poverty rate (21 percent) that would rank it among the most desperate counties in West Virginia."
Larson started off by writing that the Rolling Stone article wasn't all wrong.
"Like many communities around the country, we have serious issues as it relates to opioid abuse and domestic violence," she wrote. "And it's true we are not the economic hub for the steel industry we once were. What may be lacking, however, is context."
Then she dissected everything the article didn't get right.
"Here in Duluth, we aren't anyone's country. Simply put, we are America — where changing industry meets innovation," she wrote.
The grime on every surface? Well, that's "reconstruction dust and progress," she quipped back.
Yes, there's an opioid problem, but the city is working with local hospitals, courts and other organizations to create a system for people who overdose and need help, she said.
"This safe-place and support system is the first step in disrupting the cycle of addiction," she wrote.
Larson talked about the improvements in infrastructure, the thousands of acres of parkland and hundreds of miles of trails.
She even made a few burns: "We're also musicians. Isn't your magazine named after a song by some guy? Yeah. He was born here," she wrote referring to Bob Dylan.
Cox tweeted before the mayor's response that she made some "tweaks" to the story. Among them, she said, "It is only POTENTIAL Trump Country."
"BUT ALSO: OK, maybe I missed real Duluth! I will be back later in the summer to report out a fuller picture of the town," Cox wrote.
And Duluth will be waiting.
Staff writer Pam Louwagie contributed to this report. Karen Zamora • 612-673-4647