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Story highlights

The op-ed calls him "erratic," "ill-equipped to be commander in chief," and a "serial liar"

"Resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue," it says

(CNN) —  

The USA Today editorial board for the first time is taking sides in a presidential race – but it’s not asking voters to back a specific candidate, but rather oppose Donald Trump.

The USA Today editorial board wrote Thursday it was moved to oppose Trump – the first such move in its 34-year history – because of what it calls the unique danger he presents.

“From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents,” the board wrote in the op-ed.

Trump, the editorial board adds, is “erratic,” “ill-equipped to be commander in chief,” a “serial liar” and has “coarsened the national dialogue.”

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“We are not unmindful of the issues that Trump’s campaign has exploited: the disappearance of working-class jobs; excessive political correctness; the direction of the Supreme Court; urban unrest and street violence; the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group; gridlock in Washington and the influence of moneyed interests,” the op-ed said. “All are legitimate sources of concern.”

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, quickly defended Trump in an op-ed of his own for the paper later on Thursday.

“Donald Trump has laid out a vision to improve America’s standing at home and abroad,” Pence wrote.

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The paper’s anti-Trump editorial clarified that the article isn’t an endorsement of Clinton, but adds that the board believes she would be “far less likely to threaten national security or lead to a constitutional crisis.”

The board urges that voters “stay true to their convictions,” even if that means voting for Hillary Clinton, a third-party candidate or writing someone in.

The editorial concludes: “Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.”

Speaking to WZZM in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump responded to USA Today’s editorial, saying he doesn’t read the newspaper.
“It’s not much of a newspaper as far as I’m concerned,” Trump said, adding, “USA Today is looking to get publicity. Let’s see what happens. Let’s see if their readership goes down.”

And Pence countered that it’s Clinton who would damage the country as president.

“Hillary Clinton personifies why the American people have so little confidence in our political leaders,” Pence wrote. “Over three decades in public life, we have grown accustomed to the hallmarks of the Clinton way. Wherever they go, issues of ethics and improprieties are not far behind.”

He added that Clinton “represents all that is wrong with the status quo in Washington.”

Other major papers with conservative editorial boards have voiced their opposition to Trump in recent days.

The Arizona Republic, The Cincinnati Enquirer and Dallas Morning News notably backed Clinton, while the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. And for the first time in the 143-year history of the Detroit News, the paper didn’t endorse a Republican, opting instead for Johnson.

CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.