Conservative Think Tank: Don’t worry about date rape, ladies


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AEI_logoFor the life of me, I can’t understand what’s happening here.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a conservative think tank dedicated to “producing leading research in several key policy areas that weave a tapestry of the organization’s core beliefs: respect and support for the power of free enterprise, a strong defense centered on smart international relations, and opportunity for all to achieve the American dream.”  It is certainly one of the more prominent think tanks in this country and is regularly involved in the political debate.

The above paragraph begs the question: why the heck are they getting involved in a conversation about date rape, and why are they minimizing the subject?

Earlier this week, AEI posted this video from its YouTube channel:


The video opens with, “Ladies, have you been told not to drink the punch at parties?  Have you asked a friend to watch your drink because you are afraid to leave it alone, even for a moment…There are ‘supposedly’ predators…..”

And look, computer simulated stills!


You can’t make this stuff up.  I wish it was made up, but it’s not.

The video goes on to downplay the threat of date rape drugs, saying, “Most commonly, victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault are severely intoxicated, often from their own volition.”

From all reports, the claims made in the video are incorrect.  25% of all women report that drugs were a factor in their rape – not a small number by any stretch of the imagination.

According to the Huffington Post, “conservative pundits have been leading the backlash” against the Obama Administrations push to reduce sexual assaults on college campuses.  So, this video would seem to be part of that response.

I guess that begs the question: really?  Really? The President of the United States is trying to make women on college campuses safe from sexual assault, and there are some out there who are opposed to such a mission?  This is one of the most bizarre uses of YouTube I’ve ever seen – the topic is strange and the odd computer animation seems like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit that airs close to the conclusion of the program, when most of the viewers have already gone to bed.  I cannot believe that there are groups out there which think this is a good use of resources.  The social media lesson here?  Stick to areas that matter and won’t cause a backlash.

Not how to get female votes: Mock overweight women


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For the second time, an incident with the Carl DeMaio Congressional campaign is causing me to write a blog entry.  DeMaio is challenging Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA).  His campaign had been previously featured in the blog when he hired a staffer, retweeted the new staff members excited tweet about his new job, and then discovered that the staffer had previously sent off a series of racist and offensive tweets.  More recently, DeMaio has been accused of sexual harassment and then trying to pay off his accuser (its worth noting that the criminal investigation into that complaint has been closed due to a lack of evidence).

Anyway, in today’s entry, it has recently come to light that DeMaio sent out this Email to two staffers.  I’m not including the picture – if you want to see it, click the link.  The picture itself features an overweight woman, in a bra, eating a chicken nugget.

Kate Lyon, whose name is in the subject, is the Deputy Campaign Manager for the Scott Peters’ campaign.  Apparently, DeMaio thinks she is overweight, and decided to mock her with this Email (the woman pictured is not Kate Lyon).  It came to light after Todd Bosnich, former DeMaio policy director, released it to the public.  Incidentally, Bosnich is the staffer who has accused DeMaio of sexual harassment.  Said Bosnich:

Me and Dave [other person on the Email] were pretty shocked because we both know Kate, and while we don’t agree with her politically she is very well respected on both sides. Neither of us responded,” Bosnich told TPM that he and McCulluch didn’t respond to the email.

Needless to say, the Peters campaign was not happy.  In a statement, spokesman Alex Roth said:

Kate Lyon is one of the most experienced and respected members of our staff. She previously worked as an attorney, and for NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. It is disgusting and despicable that this champion for women’s rights, or any woman, would be demeaned this way. I wish I could say it is shocking, but coming from Carl DeMaio, nothing is shocking.

I can’t find a comment from DeMaio on the Email, so it appears to me that he didn’t respond, but…wow.  It’s a deeply offensive Email and certainly reveals a lack of respect for women, as far as I am concerned.  It also reveals a secondary lesson: don’t put anything offensive in digital format.  As a recent scandal in my home state has taught us, once again, don’t ever write anything digitally that you’d be uncomfortable seeing on the front page of your local newspaper.

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.


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