This being midsummer in a non-election year, things are a little bit show in #vtpoliland. Or maybe there’s stuff going on, but since there are practically no reporters on the #vtpoli beat right now, we’d never find out about it.
As a result of this lack of news, this edition of the Veepies (our awards for stupidity and/or obtuseness in the public sphere) roams far afield into the realms of journalistic conflicts of interest, conservatives panicking over nothing, and even sports talk radio.
That’s where we begin. The Please Stop Talking About Something You Know Nothing About Award goes to Rich and Arnie, co-hosts of the afternoon talk show on Burlington’s 101.3 The Game. On Tuesday afternoon, the day Simone Biles withdrew from the team gymnastics competition, the boys pulled down their pants and showed their asses for all to see. (The show is archived on the station’s website and podcast.)
Arnie repeatedly referred to BIles’ mental health crisis as “having a bad day,” and accused Biles of costing her team the gold medal. Rich questioned “the timing” of her withdrawal, and asked, “Was she having a bad day first, or was she having a bad day after she messed up the vault?” (She withdrew after a subpar performance on the vault.)
This happens every time a societal or political issue intrudes on the Toy Department of Life. Sports talk radio is suddenly, horribly out of its depth.
Look, guys. You can’t schedule a mental health crisis. You don’t know what’s going to set it off. When it happens, it can be like a tsunami dragging you down. We know that Biles felt unable to compete safely, so withdrawing was the responsible thing — for her well-being and for the team’s prospects in the competition. So just shut up about issues that you can’t be bothered to learn about, and stop making fools of yourselves.
After the jump: Two cases of conservative hysteria, and a veteran reporter steps in it.
Next, the Making a Mountain Out of an Anthill Award goes to VTGOP chair Deb Billado. Last Wednesday she issued an email blast about a tweet. And a tweet posted, not by a Democratic officeholder or party official, but by one Shane Rogers, a liberal fellow with no official party role that I know of. Here it is:
We need a Right to Roam. Allow access to all land to walk and recreate, forage and fish with rods. Sure, carve out an exception to limit firearms or traps. But until we start to dismantle the idea of private property, we’re not going to make much progress.
Billado interpreted the phrase “dismantle the idea of private property” as eliminating the very notion of property ownership. And she noted that Rep. Emilie Kornheiser of Brattleboro had “liked” the tweet, which meant that A DEMOCRATIC OFFICEHOLDER HAS ENDORSED MAKING ALL LAND COMMUNAL!!!!!!!
Ridiculous. As another Vermont tweeter noted, Rogers’ idea is absolutely in line with the stated view of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife: “Vermont’s tradition of open access is as old as statehood, and the values that support this tradition are fundamental to our strong sense of community.”
Our other entry in the conservative hysteria category — or in this case I should say “testeria,” the male equivalent — is Veepie All-Star John Klar, who takes home the That Shit’s Unhinged Even By John Klar Standards Award for a recent essay about, you guessed it, vaccination.
Klar begins with a parade of old faves: Facemasks are of questionable utility, Covid testing is unreliable, hydroxychloroquine was never given a fair shot. And that’s when things get weird.
Public health officials and political leaders have repeatedly lied about Covid and vaccines, and are waging a campaign of “coercion, fear and scoffing at basic Constitutional rights.” There is a “campaign to silence” those who question the official position (he says, in an openly posted essay that somehow escaped official censorship).
He then takes a brief detour into critical race theory, which he brands “anti-Martin Luther King, anti-constitutional, and holds that the First Amendment should be eliminated as a tool of white oppression,” none of which are true outside the fever dreams of the John Klars and Art Petersons of the world.
And then it’s back to the Covid vaccine, whose supporters have become “fascist, screeching apes.” Yeah, John, you have no idea what fascism is really like. I hope you never have to experience it, even though it’d likely be an enlightening experience if you survived it.
Our final entry is the Beam In Your Own Eye Award, which goes to veteran reporter and Phil Scott Covid Briefing Doorstop Mike Donoghue, who was recently ousted from the board of a regional press association for his continued involvement with a lay committee on the clergy sex abuse scandal organized by the Burlington diocese. The head of the New England First Amendment Coalition said Donoghue’s role with the church has “made his continued membership on our board problematic.”
Donoghue responded with high dudgeon, noting the “irony” of a First Amendment organization ousting a member for practicing one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment — Freedom of Religion.”
Sorry, Mike, but you’re wrong. On the latter point, NEFAC’s action had nothing to do with his exercise of religion. They didn’t give him the ax for going to church, but for his membership on a church committee on an issue of great public controversy.
He also complains that NEFAC misconstrued the purpose of the church committee. Well, maybe. But here’s the thing. A conflict of interest is a problem even if it only involves the appearance of conflict. And being publicly involved with the diocese on an issue as gnarly as clergy sex abuse absolutely creates an appearance of conflict. Even if your motives are pure as the driven snow, you’re still putting yourself in the position of being a public voice for the church.
If I were still working for a media outlet, and I took on a role with the Vermont Democratic Party, I’d be creating an appearance of conflict. Let’s say after the VDP tried to sweep the Brandon Batham embezzlement case under the rug, it reversed course and set up a committee to independently investigate the case and asked me to join. Do you think my bosses would let me?
Of course not. NEFAC did the right thing.