EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Savannah Maddox apologized after press time on Thursday night via Twitter to WLEX-TV reporter Mike Valente for her since-deleted critical tweet toward him and the Lexington television station on Wednesday night. We commend the representative for this gesture of goodwill.
In light of the current discourse between the media and the president — in our view both sides hold significant responsibility for its brokenness and toxicity — it’s no big secret what state Rep. Savannah Maddox was up to when she fired up her Twitter account on Wednesday night.
In a since-deleted tweet, Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, accused WLEX-TV and reporter Mike Valente of lying about his identity and assuming a fake name in order to interview her after she spoke at a rally Wednesday of people protesting Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus-curbing measures. She closed the tweet with the hashtag #StateRunMedia.
As evidence, Maddox posted a picture of herself being interviewed, alongside two screen-grabs of Valente reporting. The problem is that, while the two men are wearing the same style of jacket, that appears to be the extent of their similarity.
Valente replied that he had never met Maddox, and two other media members debunked Maddox’s claim on the grounds that Valente was attending Beshear’s press conference at almost the same exact time Maddox was speaking — and dressed differently, except for the jacket, than the other unnamed man in the picture.
In this case, though it was a good first step, it is not enough that Maddox deleted the tweet. The representative owes a public apology to Valente and to Kentucky’s press corps for misrepresenting him and the state’s media at large.
In order to apologize meaningfully, Maddox would have to regret her actions, which earlier activity this week would indicate is unlikely.
Her deleted tweet was at least the third inflammatory tweet in a span of three days that didn’t fully vet the accuracy of its information — displaying a troubling pattern of trying harder to score political points than to communicate earnestly and in good faith.
Courier Journal political reporter Phillip Bailey tweeted Sunday that he thought Beshear was comparing himself to Jesus Christ in a comment during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
“We are in trying times, but today is a day where I look at my faith and realize that my savior had to make a difficult decision in trying times that a lot of the establishment didn’t like what he was doing in attempts to save and to help our fellow man,” Beshear said, according to Bailey.
Any Christian worth their salt and light knows that that’s how Christians talk. Most Christians approach Scripture with the intent of finding similarities between how it describes Jesus’s life and the occurrences in their own personal lives, in order to draw inspiration for how to handle their own triumphs or crises.
In that context, speaking broadly, that doesn’t mean Christians are “comparing” their hardships or struggles to what they believe Jesus experienced.
Bailey misrepresented Beshear’s intent likely because, as Bailey states in his Twitter bio, he’s agnostic. That does not excuse him from failing the journalist’s duty to provide proper context, but it does explain it.
Maddox, who identifies as a Christian in her Twitter bio, jumped on Bailey’s tweet in an attempt to “dunk” on Beshear, to use vernacular for trying to embarrass someone on social media.
She quote-tweeted Bailey calling Beshear’s behavior (as Bailey described it) “appalling” on Monday. She, as a Christian, should have known better. Instead, she put an opportunity to score politically over honest discourse.
Later Monday, after Courier Journal columnist Joe Gerth called on members of the General Assembly to self-quarantine once they return home from the legislative session, and took a couple of shots at churches who have refused to stop in-person services, Maddox tweeted that Gerth “hates Christians.”
Gerth is, however, as of January 2018 on record identifying as Roman Catholic — Christianity’s most internationally prominent branch.
That would have been simple to fact-check, and besides that, given Gerth’s prominence, it hardly seems a secret.
The First Amendment preserves Maddox’s right to tweet and say whatever she wants (libel law does not, but that’s another topic for another day). However, as an elected representative, she has an obligation to her constituents in the 61st District and across the state to vet what she says and to communicate in good faith.
We urge the representative to pay more attention to the facts and context before she tweets — and to value intellectual honesty over stoking her political base.