Congressional candidate: Same-sex marriage is a “pestilence” and same-sex couples are “gremlins”


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Above: Gay people, according to Anthony Culler

Anthony Culler is the Republican nominee for Congress in South Carolina’s 6th District.  He’s running an uphill campaign against Congressman James Clyburn, a civil rights hero who has held the seat since 1993.  Culler has made national news for a bizzarre anti-gay post that he made to Facebook last week.  In the 520 word post, Culler made the following post to his Facebook page:

Same-sex “marriage” is a pestilence that has descended on our society, against our will, by those in the courts and government that do not value the traditional family. These people, like my opponent SC-6 Congressman Jim Clyburn who OPENLY supports same-sex “marriage,” seek to destroy the traditional family and the values we cherish.

If you believe in traditional families and that marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman then I ask that you start acting like it and START VOTING like it! Do not buy the “cuteness” and “What will it hurt?” arguments whispered in your ears and marketed to our children. Same-sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life.

There was more to the post, but you get the general idea.

Unsurprisingly, Culler’s remarks were roundly condemned, including by the South Carolina Republican Party.  Said GOP Chairman Matt Moore, “Most people learned in kindergarten not to call other people names…Our party believes in the conservative definition of marriage, but we also believe in loving our neighbors and treating them with respect. Mr. Culler’s desperate, attention-seeking antics in no way represent the good, decent South Carolinians I’ve met across our state.”

Frequent readers of this blog will know that, when someone makes a social media fail, they generally do one of two things:

1) Apologize and try to move on.
2) Double down.

Guess what Culler did?

In a video, Culler went for the double down, leaning against a cannon and declaring, “No matter how many Gremlins there are across this country, we here in the sixth district will stand against it.”  In the caption in which Culler posted the video, he said, “”Gremlins” and pro-abortion activists need to be concerned…there’s a Christian running in South Carolina that you can’t intimidate or stop.”

It’s worth noting that Culler has also used his Facebook page to attack the South Carolina Republican Party, which is probably not the preferred tactic for rallying his base.  Even before the above Facebook post, Culler was bashing the South Carolina Republican Party:

James Culler 3 James Culler 2 James Culler 1

Whatever you do, don’t feed Mr. Culler after midnight.

St. Louis police officer calls woman’s employer over mean tweets about Ferguson


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Keith NovaraIn what I would call one of the more bizarre uses of police power that I’ve seen, at least as it relates to the case of Ferguson, a St. Louis police officer is under investigation after calling the employer of realtor Leigh Maibes. Maibes had fired off a series of tweets about the tragedy in Ferguson, and that apparently earned her boss a phone call from police.

Maibes has also released a call of her confronting the officer over the phone:

In the call with officer Keith Novara, Mables tells the officer that she feels like she is being intimidated by the police.  Novara confirms that he made the call, but said that some of Maibes’ tweets were “inciteful” and wanted to give Maibes’ real estate broker a “heads up.” Meanwhile, Officer Novara has obtained a lawyer and is trying to say that the purpose of the phone call was to “set the record straight.”

This is, without a doubt, one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen a police officer do.  It’s also one of the dumbest.  The St. Louis area is clearly undergoing some very significant challenges in terms of the relationship between the police and the general public.  For an officer to use his police power to call the employer of someone saying mean things against police on Twitter strikes me as a terrible use – and probably abuse – of his power.  A quick look at Maibes’ profile reveals quite a few tweets about Ferguson & Shaw.  However, a question: so?  Do we now live in a country that is not protected by the first amendment? Since when did it become a police matter to try to call the boss of someone who was firing off critical tweets?  In fact, if that happened to every single person who sent off tweets like this, how on earth would the police have time to do ANYTHING?

The only reason I can think that Maibes’ tweets would be inappropriate is if they specifically made threats or called for violence.  However, if that were the case, the appropriate and perfectly reasonable and legal course of action for police would have been to file chargers…not call Maibes’ boss.  There’s just no way, in my mind, that such a call was appropriate, and this seems to me to be an attempt to silence a critical citizen.

State Senator sends Facebook message to taunt laid off reporter


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I’ve written previously about Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield, the genius who recently blogged that Obamacare is like the Holocaust.  Campfield is also the author of the infamous “don’t say gay” legislation, which would have stopped any K-8 teachers from discussing homosexuality.  Senator Campfield’s constituents had apparently had enough, as he lost his 2014 primary reelection 69-26.  That’s a pretty serious loss for any incumbent.

Enter Cari Gervin, a former reporter for the Metro Pulse in Knoxville.  I say former because Gervin, like other reports at the Metro Pulse, were let go in a round of layoffs.  Apparently, Campfield had been previously upset at reporting by Gervin, because he sent her this Facebook message:

Yes, that’s right, a State Senator is taunting a recently laid off reporter.  If that doesn’t get your blood boiling, I’m not quite sure what will.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Gervin said that Campfield had previously sent her “mean, harassing text messages.” Clearly, someone failed media relations 101, but that’s another story.

In an interview with Reuters, Campfield said, ““Do I care about someone who lost their job lying about me? No.” He also made these comments on Facebook in response to a post on the matter:

Well when someone has lied about you as much as Gervin lied about me. Reporting how my events were canceled when they were not. Never retracting what she said. Reporting complete mistruths even after I gave her contact people to verify what I was saying was completely true (of course 48 hours before the election). Then contacting me right after the election to ask me “so do you have any comments now?” then I think turn about is fair play. If you can’t take, don’t dish.

Lots of reporters have been fired. Have you ever seen me comment on them? Doubt it. Because mostly they were at least somewhat fair and reasonable. They didn’t always agree with my point of view but that’s ok. At least they were not making things up or completely disregarding the truth to hit me. Gervin did.

So, two wrongs make a right, according to Senator Campfield.  It’s good to know that he has the moral compass of a kindergartner.  Okay, that’s an unfair statement.  To kindergartners.

As I have said many times before, I don’t think social media makes people dumber, I just think it gives people who are already dumb another venue in which they can spew dumb things.  Clearly, the outgoing Senator is a prime example of this. To send a message like this to another human being who has recently been laid off requires a lack of judgement, tact, and frankly, heart.  Clearly, Campfield has issues which go well beyond the propensity to do stupid things on Facebook and blogs.

Missouri County Recorder of Deeds: President is a “domestic enemy,” can he be ousted?


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Debbie Dunnegan is the Recorder of Deeds in Jefferson County, Missouri.  In a Facebook post last week, Dunnegan, a Republican, posed this question:

Debbie Dunnegan Waters

Just to be clear, she is asking a question to the military: The President is “supposedly the commander in chief,” but Dunnegan is questioning why “no action” has been taken “against our domestic enemy [the President],” since “the constitution gives you the authority.”

Oh good.  An elected office holder is calling for a military coup against the democratically elected President of the United States.  I don’t seem to remember that section of the Constitution.  Could just be me though.

As the story noted, Dunnegan’s Facebook page is private, but Dunnegan said that she had not deleted the post. In follow-up interviews, Dunnegan said that she “meant no ill intent towards the President,” and called her remarks “innocent and simple.”  If she didn’t mean any ill intent towards the President, I’m gonna just go ahead and ask what exactly she DID mean.  Anyway, Dunnegan is up for reelection this month.  She also noted that the comments could just as easily help or hurt her reelection bid.

In a later statement, Dunnegan said:

“ISIS is beheading American citizens and they promise more. Five top Taliban Terrorist leaders are set free. Ebola has been intentionally brought on American soil and is being handled with less care than the flu. The borders aren’t secure. America is in great danger. The president does nothing. This Senate does nothing. I am extremely frustrated and I am not the only one. In my frustration, I asked the question what is the military allowed to do? I am not a traitor. I did not ask our military to commit treason.

Her opponent, Democrat Mike Bone, said, “I found the comments very disturbing. A suggestion of a military coup over our president? I was appalled.”

As a general rule, I’ve always thought that calling for a military coup against the President of the United States was bad for your career as an elected official…and, as a side note, I cannot believe that I just typed those words.  Regardless, Dunnegan had not apologized for her remarks.  Indeed, she also took to Twitter to defend herself:

So, let’s review: calling for an armed takeover of the Presidency is bad.  I’m glad we’ve established this.

New Hampshire State Representative on Congresswoman: “Ugly as sin…looks more like a drag queen than most men in drag”


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Ann Marie KusterLast week saw one of the more blatantly offensive social media fails that I’ve ever seen.  It features New Hampshire State Representative Steve Vaillancourt (R), who writes blog entries on the New Hampshire Insider.  In a recent entry, Vaillancourt was discussing the race between Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D), who is trying to fend off a challenge  from State Representative Marilinda Garcia (R).

In his blog entry, Rep. Valliancourt discussed how he had read information which shows that attractive candidates typically do better than unattractive ones.  Then, Rep. Vaillancourt said:


Let’s be honest.  Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin?  And I hope I haven’t offended sin.
If looks really matter and if this race is at all close, give a decided edge to Marilinda Garcia.
Annie Kuster looks more like a drag queen than most men in drag.

Keep in mind there is more…this is just the highlights.  Ironically, Vaillancourt began his entry by saying that he didn’t “plan to say anything really offensive.”  I’m not sure what planet he lives on if he thought this wouldn’t be offensive.

Marilinda GarciaGarcia blasted Vaillancourt’s comments, saying, “”Both Rep. Kuster and I have experienced this unfortunate reality of being a woman in politics. I hope that as time moves forward and more female candidates run for political office around the country, people will focus on the content of our ideas rather than what we wear and how we look.”

The New Hampshire Republican Party also attacked Vailliancourt’s remarks, with the Chairwoman of the New Hampshire GOP, Jennifer Horn, calling the remarks “reprehensible” and adding, “They undermine the healthy development of our daughters and in no way reflect our values as Granite Staters.”

As for Congresswoman Kuster, she deflected the comments on the story and pivoted it to an attack on the Republican Party:

I have thick skin…Steve Vaillancourt can say whatever he’s going to say. . . . What it leads to is a much more important conversation to have, which is frankly, what’s offensive to the voters of New Hampshire is the Republican platform

She then launched into an attack on Garcia’s on issues like Equal Pay and the Violence Against Women Act.  These are issues in which polls typically show Democrats have an advantage, and they need to motivate women to vote in order to win.  To that end, Vailliancourt’s idiot blog entry provided Kuster with an opening.

As for Representative Vailliancourt: In another story, it is noted that “Vaillancourt has refused to say if he stands behind his comments.”

So, what’s the conclusion here?  Without question, the remarks were absurd and offensive.  Vaillancourt did Garcia more harm than good, and she was obviously smart to distance herself from the remarks as quickly as possible.  What I found particularly interesting is that Congresswoman Kuster didn’t take the bait or play the victim: instead, she went on the attack as an sexist remarks to attack her opponent on the issues.

This entire incident is, unfortunately, just the latest ugly chapter in the sexism that women face in politics.

The social media lesson: don’t do anything that Vaillancourt did.

Content tip to increase your views and engagement: Specifically leverage others


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This past Monday, I ran a guest blog entry from my friends at Goff Public. As I watched my views on the entry climb, I was struck by something: Guest Blog Entries do really well in terms of generating traffic.  This served as a good reminder for me, and it’s a tip I wanted to share with you: Specifically leverage other individuals in order to increase your social media views engagement.

One of the most basic Twitter best practices is that you need to retweet and mention others as frequently as possible.  This not only increases your engagement, but helps to increase your followers, as it makes your content more diverse, interesting and other-centered.  That being said, I’m not just talking about responding to other people.  I’m talking about specifically, and with their permission, repurposing quotes and content from others.  Network-specific examples include:

  • Facebook & Twitter: Don’t just share or retweet someone.  Straight up quote them, and mention them while doing so.  For example:  “.@mikeschlossberg: Don’t just retweet – quote someone if you are listening to them in real life.”  If you tweeted that at me in real life, I would be pretty likely to retweet that, as I’d be flattered that someone quoted me in a positive manner and made me look like an expert worth quoting.
  • Blogging: Guest blog entries are fantastic, because others are likely to share the content, thus increasing views on your blog.

Everything I’m saying here is obviously a little different than the standard share or retweet – it involves taking someone’s content and attributing it to them (not plagiarizing, of course).  Why is this different?

The answer is simple: people like seeing their names quoted in a positive manner by others.  To that end, if you do that, they are more likely to retweet, like, comment or share the information that you share.  Whenever I do a guest blog entry or interview, I always make sure to use their Twitter handle when I tweet out the title.  That makes the user more likely to share the information – and this, in turn, helps to increase views and followers.

It’s a simple trick, but a powerful one, as it can dramatically extend your reach.

Elected officials don’t need to worry about Ello…yet….


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elloEllo is quickly becoming the hot new social network.  The hook: it’s advertisement free.  Says it’s founder, Paul Budnitz, “I think there is a misperception among some naive people that think this site will [eventually] sell data or advertising. It will never do that. There should be no doubt about that. The founders of Ello still control a vast amount of the company and we are committed to that vision.”  Furthermore, as per Ello’s manifesto, data is not tracked, giving users an added level of comfort and privacy.

So, what is Ello?  It can best be described by it’s stripped down, minimalist features.  All text is black and white.  It seems to be a combination of Facebook and Twitter – you can follow people and others can follow you.  You can also make status updates, can mention people and view your news feed.  You have two pictures – a profile pic and a background pic.  There is none of the “noise” that Facebook has – no games or apps or anything like that – and, of course, no ads.  There is no mobile app yet.

Is this the hot new thing?  Yeah, sort of.  Should elected officials or government offices be running for it?  No.  Not yet.  Why?  Well, it’s invite only.  You can’t just sign up for Ello – you have to request an invite, and the network is still in beta.  As such, it’s not a massively accessible social network.  Given the obvious time and resource constraints on elected officials, you simply shouldn’t be wasting your effort on a social network with a limited audience.


And I want to emphasize yet, because you never know what social network is going to get huge next.  Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all came out of nowhere, and remember, before Facebook, MySpace was KING.  Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram and Vine were the next group, followed by messaging services like Snapchat, Kik and Whisper.  Maybe ad-free networks are the next big thing. So, to that end, keep an eye on Ello.  It does seem to have some mass media momentum, but only time will tell if it’s real or a flash in the pan.

I’m not on Ello yet but would like to be (just filled in my Request for an Invite) – is anyone out there on Ello?  Any experiences you’d like to share?  Please let us know in the comments!

Guest blog entry: Managing your online image in a world where embarrassment trumps substance


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Goff PublicHello everyone!  Today’s blog entry comes courtesy of my friends at Goff Public out of Minnesota.  They gave a fantastic presentation some months back, and I appreciate their willingness to do an entry.  It’s a great one too.  Read on!


Goff Public recently had the pleasure of presenting a session about online image management to a group of about 150 legislators and legislative staff from across the country at the National Council of State Legislators summit in Minneapolis.

The level of engagement we received during and after the presentation made it clear to us that online image management among public officials is increasingly on people’s radars. With websites like Politwoops capturing every tweet a politician has ever deleted, the WayBackMachine allowing users to view how websites used to look, and public officials’ online slip-ups increasingly used in negative campaigning and by the news media, online image management is as important as it has ever been.

The falling standards of journalism provide even more reason to be vigilant. (See a former congresswoman being cut off in favor of breaking news on Justin Bieber.) It has become clear: Embarrassment trumps substance in today’s media environment.

Top 10 ways to manage your online image

  1. Develop goals for your online image

The first step is to define success.  Decide the goals you want your online image to achieve, focusing on accuracy and positivity.

  1. Conduct a comprehensive online image audit

Scour the Internet – including Google searches, news websites, official legislative sites, campaign sites, social media platforms, and the all-important Wikipedia – to thoroughly understand the status of your current online image.

  1. Measure your presence against your goals

Does your online presence reflect your goals? Is the information about you online current, accurate, positive, and not embarrassing?

  1. Mitigate and rebuild

If your online image is not what you want it to be, mitigate the damage and rebuild. Change the items that are within your control by building relationships with reporters to help influence future content, discussing social media strategy and standards with your staff, and setting up Google or TalkWalker alerts for yourself. The most important thing you can do to rebuild and redefine your image is to start creating the type of content that you want your image to reflect.

  1. Think before you act

Do not tweet/post/speak/act when you are angry. Do not post anything after midnight – the majority of your audience is sleeping at that time, and you will probably calm down after a night’s rest. Also, alcohol and Twitter do not mix. Always ask yourself:  Does what I’m about to write support my core messages, and does it advance my goals? If the answer is no, don’t do it.

  1. Get active

The most important way to build an online image is to be active online. Develop a social media calendar and post regular, relevant and charismatic updates. The most effective posts make people chuckle or feel relatable.

  1. Manage your time wisely

There is a place for extensive policy debate, and Twitter is usually not that place. Always be aware of your return on investment. Are you getting enough value out of your social media presence to justify the time you are spending on it?

  1. When you are in public, assume you are being recorded

Legislators are so often surrounded by cameras that they sometimes forget. Floor sessions are often recorded, opposition trackers are at many media events, and of course nearly everyone has a smartphone. So, when you are in public, assume you are on camera and act accordingly.

  1. Keep your audience in mind

Your constituents are your top priority. E-mail responses to constituents – even responses to e-mail blasts – should be in your own voice and incorporate your core messages.

  1. Utilize the Internet as an opportunity

Remember 15 years ago when the only way to get your messages out was to purchase an advertisement or try to get your name in a news story?  The advent of the Internet and everything it brought with it has created an endless array of platforms from which you can broadcast your messages instantly. It is a powerful tool; use it wisely.

How not to tweet: Roger Goodell edition


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As you may very well be aware, the NFL has been embroiled in a series of scandals related to their players and the unfortunate propensity of a very select few to beat women or children.  The league has been criticized by many for their inaction, and potential cover-up, as a result of these scandals.  Much of that criticism has been directed at Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner.  I’d like to approach this story from the social media angle, because as I recently learned, one of Goodell’s many screw-ups in relation to this disaster has been on Twitter.  Indeed, ‘d previously written about the scandal and Twitter, noting that the Baltimore Ravens deleted an older, victim-blaming tweet, with no explanation, related to the incident between Ray Rice attacking his then fiancee.

Goodell is on Twitter and had an active Twitter account.  I say had because he hasn’t tweeted since September 5, over a month ago.  This was his last tweet:

Roger Goodell last tweet

Three days after this tweet was sent the infamous video was released by TMZ. That video showed Rice striking his finance and knocking her unconscious.  From there, it somehow got worse. Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended by the NFL, but allegations emerged that the NFL had, in fact, seen the video tape which showed Rice striking his fiance.  Goodell, who had already been roundly criticized for suspending a woman beater longer than a marijuana smoker, reacted by lengthening penalties for domestic abusers, but the damage was done.

One of the items that Goodell has been criticized on was his lack of communication. The NFL was giving less than clear answers on a variety of fronts, like when they first saw the video tape.  The slew of criticisms resulted in many calling for Goodell’s resignation.

I think that Goodell compounded the problem by not being clear with who knew what, and when they knew it.  The public still remains angry at Goodell – just look at the latest tweets sent in his direction:

By not participating on Twitter, Goodell lost a vital opportunity to participate in this story, and shape the conversation around it.  The league claims to be open to transparency, and by Goodell not tweeting, its pretty clear that he doesn’t want to answer questions and that he has something to hide.

You don’t always have to live tweet a crisis.  I get that.  Sometimes, you need time to figure out a message and a communications strategy – the last thing you want to do with social media is go off half-cocked and have to walk back any message.

However, at some point, sooner rather than later, you have to reengage.  Personally, if I were Goodell and the NFL, I would get on Twitter and hold a Twitter Town Hall – yes, I am going back on my own advice – for the explicit purpose of giving people the chance to yell at me.  I would say, “I’m Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, and the buck stops here.  I understand the public is furious with me, and they have every right to be.  I’m going to sit here and answer as many of your questions as I can.  I know the comments will be overwhelmingly negative, and I understand that.  I want to be constructive and try to address the concerns about me and the NFL – fire away #NFLTownHall.”  The tweets would be beyond negative.  But it would give Goodell the chance to be transparent, answer questions and start to rehabilitate his image, because let’s be honest, it really can’t get much worse.

The only reason you don’t engage is if you have something you still want to hide, or you think the scandal is going to get worse and don’t want to have to go dark again.  And if that’s really the case, Goodell should really resign.  Now.  Or, more appropriately, he should have done so a month ago.

Speaker Boehner tweets a blank job plan


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This past Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner sent out this perplexing tweet:

The tweet itself went to this website, which listed Boehner’s five points for job recovery: Tax code reform, spending reductions, legal reform, regulatory reform and education improvements.  However, the implication here is obvious for anyone who doesn’t like the Speaker or Republicans: The five blank points were the best that the Republican party could do, and that they had no jobs plan.

Indeed, the Twitter accounts of Democrats lit up:

As this MSNBC story noted, the entire thing turned into an insult exchange between other Democratic members of Congress and the Speaker, with the Speaker doing his best to fight off attacks on this errand tweet.

Meanwhile, other Twitter users also had a field day:

There were no shortage of news stories on the subject as well, and it certainly led to media coverage that the Speaker could have done without.  The Speaker’s office did try to snark their way out of the nasty tweets from fellow Congressional members:

The clever response wasn’t a bad way to handle the issue, but I have to say, the entire tweet is perplexing.  I have to think it was an accident, because no one, in their right mind, would send out a political tweet like that, as it practically begged for satire.  Indeed, in looking at the page which contains the tweet itself, it appeared that the first mocking reply literally occurred within a minute of the tweet being sent.  Leaving a tweet blank left it ripe for photoshop – indeed, a somewhat similar tweet sent months ago by President Obama ended with a similar disaster.

So, the moral here: don’t send out charged or controversial tweets that can be easily manipulated by your opposition.  It will end with you having some explaining to do.



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