On the handling of unsavory candidates

Preface: This post was written before Paul Heintz posted his story on this subject. My questions are still valid; my thoughts about the extent and consistency of media coverage are tempered somewhat by his article.

Looks like the Vermont Republican Party’s candidate-vetting system has a few holes in it. Turns out that one of VTGOP’s candidates for House has a little revenge-porn problem. WCAX: 

He’s running to represent Colchester in the Legislature, but the divorced businessman is also now facing revenge porn charges.

The alleged victim went to police back in July telling investigators Patrick Liebrecht was posting sexually explicit images of her on social media without her permission.

The alleged scumbag, Pat Liebrecht, has denied the charges… and in the process, he pretty much admiited they’re true.

According to the affidavit, the woman told police once she broke up with him this summer he began posting them on her family and friends’ Facebook pages and threatening her saying, “I will make plenty of trouble for you.”

When police interviewed Liebrecht they say he admitted to posting the nude photos and comments. …

Police say he then denied that the woman was nude in the photo and told them that he could “go onto National Geographic and see that stuff.”

Meaning what, exactly? He only showed boobies?

The VTGOP quickly distanced itself from Liebrecht, although they can’t do anything to get him off the ballot. He will remain a standard-bearer for Republicanism and a potential state officeholder. An ironically apropos one, in the Year of the Trump.

But the case of Mr. Liebrecht, along with those of social-media sulliers Michael McGarghan and Bill Lawrence, raise some questions regarding the party and the media.

For the party: Do you do any vetting at all? Do you check police blotters and social media accounts just in case a prospective candidate happens to be a hateful misogynist or racist or conspiracy-theorist, or even a criminal? Do you have a responsibility to the voting public to avoid putting forth hateful candidates under your banner, with your presumed seal of approval?

And, should such a person’s misdeeds come to light, where do you draw the line? The VTGOP has disavowed Liebrecht in the strongest possible terms. It has disavowed McGarghan, who advocated the lynching of our first black President. It has said nothing about Lawrence, who…

— Retweeted an image calling for Muslims to be burned alive,

— Advanced the alt-right meme that Hillary Clinton is a secret lesbisn,

— Shared an image accusing FBI Director James Comey of treason for failing to prosecute Hillary Clinton for treason,

— Asserted that only fools and Muslim terrorists are voting for Clinton.

And much, much more. Apparently all of that is A-OK with the VTGOP. Perhaps because, unlike Liebrecht and McGarghan, Bill Lawrence actually has a shot at winning.

So, just wondering exactly where the line is drawn.

Similar questions for the media. The Liebrecht story just broke last night, so we’ll see how much publicity it gets. I’m guessing a lot. McGarghan has been pretty widely publicized. There’s been a ton of attention on Burlington School Board member David Kirk for his hateful social media posts.

Lawrence? Not so much. VTDigger ran a story (which noted his Twitterings but failed to mention his Facebook vileness), but nothing from the rest of the media as far as I can tell. (Addendum: As noted above, Paul Heintz wrote a story today including Lawrence with the other offenders.)

And then there’s Mark Donka, who was the Republican candidate for Congress in 2012 and 2014, and a candidate for State Senate this year. He’s got quite a history of hateful, conspiratorial Facebook posts, although I think he’s cleaned up his act this year.

During his past campaigns, I pointed out his alt-right social media activity and no one in the media followed up. And he was running for federal office, for Pete’s sake.

So, to the rest of the Vermont media: Where do you draw the line? Do you ever check the social media profiles of candidates?

Well, that’s an awful lot of work. But if you learn that a candidate is spewing hate online, how do you decide whether it’s news?



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