A New Low

A New Low

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

What is it with this year? Why has this relatively low-key election cycle taken a turn for worse with ugly, sexually-tinged political attacks?

Thursday morning, Alabama Political Reporter editor Bill Britt published a picture of Poarch Creek Indian vice chairman Robbie McGhee dancing in a New Orleans night club. The “story” is a not-so-subtle attempt to smear McGhee and question his sexuality. It’s far beyond the realm of legitimate political journalism and really just outside the bounds of human decency.

Of course, it comes not long after the state’s top office holder, Gov. Kay Ivey, endured a smear campaign of her own. Retiring State Rep. Patricia Todd brazenly attempted to “out” Ivey in a tweet saying she had heard the governor was gay. The condemnation was fast and furious for Todd, who lost her future job prospect in Florida and some well-earned respect in the Alabama political world. For his role in flaming the rumor, Ivey’s opponent Scott Dawson lost credibility he had built as a minister-turned-candidate.

Also, a few months ago, an operative for Alice Martin’s campaign for Attorney General was let go after he built a website attempting to fan gay rumors about another candidate in the race. I wrote at the time it was “bush league” and “why we can’t have nice things” in Alabama politics.

Given the consequences for those involved in these earlier smears, I didn’t think we’d see that kind of tactic used again. But now Britt, well known for his attacks against politicians and political operatives, has gone back to the barrel and reached the bottom of it.

To justify posting the photo and accompanying takedown attempt, Britt wrote that the photo had been circulating in political circles and that it was worrying politicians and organizations associated with the Poarch Creeks and McGhee, who works as the tribe’s lead on governmental affairs.

“The same worry is being voiced by PCI members who feel the picture of McGhee being embraced by a nightclub performer might play badly in this Saturday’s tribal council elections, where McGhee faces a challenge from Tim Martin.”

In political parlance, that’s called the tail wagging the dog. How can anyone be worried about the publication of a photo until it is actually published? Thankfully, Britt took care of both the cause and effect for us.

And just in case there was any misconception to what he was trying to imply, Britt included an editor’s note saying “APR values the LGBTQ community and supports Mr. McGhee in living his authentic life.”

How nice.

Political attacks using sexuality aren’t cute, aren’t funny and shouldn’t be rewarded. They certainly weren’t rewarded earlier this campaign season, and I sense this one won’t be either. Many people don’t like being associated with  mean-spirited bullies.

McGhee and the Poarch Creeks are fair game for public scrutiny. Media can criticize their positions and political stances all it wants- but do it on the merits. When attacks become this personal and scurrilous, it only reflects poorly on the one launching it.

For their part, the Poarch Creeks don’t sound worried at all. Much like with his previous attacks on the Business Council of Alabama’s CEO Billy Canary and Chairman Perry Hand, Britt may actually galvanize support for McGhee within the tribe by going so low.

“The photo that Mr. Britt ‘obtained’ was one of many taken during a birthday celebration that Mr. McGhee and a group of friends attended at a New Orleans’ nightclub show that is very popular with tourists. A girlfriend of Mr. McGhee‘s later saw the photo among those posted on the club‘s website, and he subsequently asked that it be taken down,” the Tribal Council said in a statement.

“The Tribal Council unequivocally supports Mr. McGhee professionally and his right to enjoy his personal time with friends. We view Mr. Britt’s actions as a personal attack and an effort to undermine both Mr. McGhee’s character and credibility and, by extension, our Tribe. We respect the rights of any citizen to enjoy great tourist attractions whether they be in Alabama or Louisiana and suggest that Mr. Britt could use some time off.”

Yeah, maybe so.