Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mayor Parker Steps Into Duck Dynasty Controversy

Sometimes our words get us into trouble.  The non-stop chatter on social media is a landmine for potential displays of ugly and/or ignorant statements.  When a person in public office or a big corporate position misbehaves on social media, the consequences are apparent quickly and publicly.

I've chosen to not write about the whole Duck Dynasty patriarch's GQ magazine interview and the conflict with A&E channel executives because so much of it is overwrought and mislabeled as a violation of the man's First Amendment right to free speech.  I see it as a business decision.  I also think A&E knew that the man has spoken less than graciously about gays using biblical beliefs as his guide - I saw a video of him in 2010 doing that - and so it could not have been a surprise.  This is a big, corporate entertainment channel, owned by Disney, with lawyers and contracts and script ideas at their disposal.  Enough already.  There are real problems in the world.

So, along comes Ms. Justine Sacco, a PR executive employed by  InterActive Corp (IAC) and the tweet that stunned the world.  IAC  "  which owns popular websites like OkCupid,, CollegeHumor, The Daily Beast and Vimeo", according to this piece, is reported to have now fired Ms. Sacco.  Here is the tweet:

"Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"

So, yeah, that didn't go over so well.  Somehow this public relations executive managed to sound both ignorant and racist in just four short sentences.  It is such an offensive mish mash that local news broadcast anchors would only put the tweet up on the screen and refused to read the whole thing outloud.  

Her employer put out a quick response:
This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC. Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.

Ms. Sacco now finds herself among the unemployed.

A public relations executive for the prominent New York-based Internet media company IAC lost her job on Saturday after she posted a message joking about AIDS in Africa and race on her Twitter account, sparking an online furor. 

Her Twitter account?  Deleted.  Long flight home from Africa, I'm guessing.

Then, from the elected officials arena, the mayor of my own city decided to weigh in on the Duck Dynasty brouhaha with her own bit of gracelessness.  

Houston Mayor Annise Parker on Saturday took a shot at "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson, calling the backwood baron of duck calls and reality TV star a "redneck wingnut" in relation to his views on homosexuality.Parker, in a midday tweet, called Robertson's views "completely irrelevant," following on a remark she made to John Wright, publisher of Lone Star Q, a Texas-based blog focused on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues."I've been a gay community activist since the mid-70s," Wright quoted Parker as saying. "It was a very different time. We were fighting to keep people out of jails and mental hospitals. What some redneck wingnut has to say about the GLBT community is completely irrelevant."Parker followed the Friday quip with a tweet Saturday. "I was serious. Who cares?" Parker wrote on her official mayoral Twitter account, followed by nearly 25,000.

"Who cares?"  Kinda puts Hillary Clinton's infamous "What does it really matter?" tone deaf and flippant remark back into a person's mind, doesn't it?  We need better from the mayor of our nation's fourth largest city.  As an elected official, working for all of the people of the City of Houston, not just the ones she chooses to work for, she would do well to remember to act as a professional.  We deserve better dialogue than "redneck wingnut".

We need respectful dialogue brought back into politics.  The recent election cycles here in Houston have been hideous, frankly, with far more personal destruction attacks used in campaigns than arguments on policy and issues.  Some politicians now sound little better than common street thugs. Disagree with the candidate on his/her qualifications or rhetoric? That candidate and surrogates will go after the dissenter personally and publicly.

Politics 101 teaches that politics is the art of persuasion.  Who is persuaded with this comment?

Be worthy of the office or position you hold.  Lead by example.


Anonymous said...

I wonder, if I called the Mayor a Fat Lesbian, would I be fired?

I am a city employee.

Karen Townsend said...

I wonder why people want to go down into such ugly discourse. Respect goes both ways.

Anonymous said...

I know that if I had said something like what she said I would be fired. Why is she exempt?