"I think it's a liberal ploy to take the attention off the bills and the legislation I've passed and the positive things I've done, to make me look like a bad person."
That's what Republican state Rep. Julia Hurley told the AP's Erik Schelzig earlier this week, in response to the latest kerfuffle of which she is at the center. In the video above — which Hurley posted on YouTube before removing it two days later — Hurley's dog and legislative assistant Pepper is held out the passenger window by a faceless passenger. Another person in the car — presumably Hurley who was, presumably, driving — can be heard laughing and instructing the passenger on the proper way to execute an activity apparently known by Hurley as "air swimming" and by others as "flailing in terror." Pepper has not yet commented on her state of mind during the activity.
Personally, I'm not overly concerned with whether or not this makes Hurley a "bad person." I wouldn't hold my dog outside of a moving vehicle, but I try to save up my moral outrage for alleged wife-beaters and drunk-and-armed drivers. Betsy Phillips feels more strongly on this point, as it relates to Hurley.
I'm more interested in this "liberal ploy" business.
First, a few things should be acknowledged. Do liberals get excited when conservatives get caught doing something stupid in their personal lives? Clearly, yes. Do bored reporters get excited when anyone gets caught doing something stupid during the summer doldrums? Clearly, yes. And yet the key factor which seems lost on the Republican majority — from Hurley all the way up to the governor, who developed his own blame-the-media reflex this year — is that without the initial act, there's nothing for the media to blow out of proportion and nothing for liberals to celebrate.
We don't know the identity of the passenger holding Pepper in the video, but I feel safe guessing that he or she does not work for the Knoxville News Sentinel. (If he or she is a liberal, however, Hurley could have been set up.)
We could refute this overplayed GOP trope by linking to all sorts of coverage of Hurley's primary legislative effort this year. But instead, let's take a look back. You know — we report, you decide: Is Julia Hurley just a misunderstood maverick or the victim of the liberal's long con?
As reported in the video above by ABC 24 in Memphis, Hurley defended herself when photos from her brief modeling career were "taken out of context" and posted on the Internet. The "artistically shot" pictures were somehow perceived as sexual, which is suspect because Hurley was neither pantless, nor pantieless.
Just after winning her House seat, Hurley got more national attention when she attributed her success to her time spent as a Hooters Girl. Hurley said at the time that her opponents had failed in their attempt to make her employment history and modeling career an issue. Later on in the article linked above, Hurley said that former regular customers donated to her campaign "without question or hesitation." In that case, perhaps she should thank the media for bringing so much attention to what what was, apparently, a stellar record of prompt and friendly service.
In this episode, Hurley gets testy with a state trooper after being pulled over for doing 77 mph in a 50 mph zone. She told WBIR in Knoxville that she paid the ticket two days after the January incident, and later wrote an apology to the Tennessee Highway Patrol as well as the officer who pulled her over. To be fair, she did not blame this on liberals.
In the early morning hours of a legislative session, people on the Hill can lose their sense of judgment. Some people eat the bologna sandwiches, provided by the state. Hurley carved her initials on her desk, provided by the state. Though the inscription was etched in May, it was not discovered until July. When asked about it, Hurley gave a more typical response. "To ask me details about what happened three months ago, I couldn't tell you," she told the News Sentinel. "I don't understand why it's news, and I don't want to talk about the desk." This is more like the Pepper situation. Except that in the case of the desk, Hurley conceded that she "wasn't thinking straight." In the case of the "air swimming" she contends that the dog likes it. In both cases, she doesn't think we should care.
Come to think of it, maybe Pepper is a liberal. Earlier this year, Hurley and Pepper were kicked out of the Roane County Courthouse where dogs are not allowed. Hurley claimed Pepper is a service dog. Her service? Providing companionship. Who can argue with that?