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Tweets McKenna campaign staffer who reveals issues with both Asians and people who walk slow in front of her car

July 17, 2012

Tweet from McKenna campaign staffer as carried by The Stranger that prompted apologies but to the wrong newspaper. Image: courtesy The Stranger. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Larger image of above that also includes the Tweet about slow moving people needing wheelchairs. Image: courtesy The Stranger. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Like filing a lawsuit in the wrong court, Washington gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna apologized to the wrong newspaper; the one that’s backing him for governor. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(MONROE, WA) -- There is often a downside for politicians and their campaign staff as well as for “regular people” in posting too much information on the Internet via social media – a media that actually encourages people to fully insert foot in mouth before brain is in gear and then to hit the send button at 90 mph as though a flesh-eater from hell was on your heels.

Such is the lesson learned this week by a campaign staffer for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob McKenna.

The McKenna campaign staffer, Kathlyn Ehl voluntarily rolled out on Twitter what appeared to be her personal problems with both Asians and people who walk too slowly in front of her car.

There was this Tweet back on January 25 posted on her Twitter account by Ehl who is a “policy advisor” to McKenna:

"shut up and speak English #asians."

Or this one on Nov. 16, 2011 by Ehl:

“if it takes you and entire green light to walk in front of my car GET A WHEELCHAIR.”

Little did Ehl realize (evidently) that a reporter for Seattle’s grindhouse, fully-edgy alternative weekly paper The Stranger - not famous for being a big booster of Republican ideas or candidates – was pouring through all those tweets.

Stranger reporter Dominic Holder posted the two Tweets you see above right on Monday and also reported that Ehl “Has not replied to an attempt to reach her. And McKenna's entire campaign staff is in a meeting—literally every single one of them, the receptionist insists—so we left a message but they haven't responded.”

Holder then updated his story later, noting that since he posted those Ehl Tweets that Ehl had, “Deleted dozens of tweets, including the two I posted as screen grabs. She had 213 tweets earlier today; that number is down to 176 tweets. So I suppose that means Ehl had 37 postings too unsavory for the campaign? While we haven't heard back from her, she's probably seen this post, given that one of her priorities at the campaign is "monitoring the media," according to her LinkedIn profile.”

Ouch. Damage control in real time in full view of the same set of rock n’ roll reportorial eyes.

Not smart for a policy adviser. Then again, considering the Asian and wheelchair Tweets God only knows what was in those 37 tweets that evaporated into the ether.


Later on Rob McKenna issued a statement - although curiously not to the young, take-no-prisoners Stranger which broke the story or to Holder who had been trying to get a hold of someone there for a comment, but to the aged (as in fine wine of course) mainstream news noodle The Seattle Times.

“The tweets sent by a member of my campaign staff, Kathlyn Ehl, which were reported today were offensive and inappropriate. I am glad to see that she has apologized for her actions,” wrote McKenna and carried in the Times.

McKenna's statement also said that since Ehl, “Made the comments before joining my campaign does not make them any less hurtful to Asian Americans and the elderly. They were insensitive and wrong regardless of their context. She has done the right thing by apologizing. I am hopeful that she has learned a humbling lesson that will give her greater perspective about having charity in her heart when considering the challenges faced by others.”

Also curiously Ehl herself did not apologize to the newspaper that broke the story but again to the Times which ran a curiously very short piece (11 graphs and no copy of the Ehl tweets) on the story – curiously short meaning that had this story come out of the Romney or Obama camp and carried by AP, some newsies would bet their now meager paychecks this type of story would be front page with a feature photo and all manner of AP style blood letting with not so subtle hints of purple rain indignation.

The statement carried in the Times quotes Ehl as saying:

“These insensitive comments were harmful not just to those groups which I mentioned in the tweets, but also to my family, friends and my co-workers,” she wrote. “For causing that pain, I am sorry.”


So why did the Times give this story such short shrift in comparison to thousands of similar stories in the past that the newspaper blasted into the stratosphere in full Kodak color with booster rockets pushing the story skyward and why did McKenna and Ehl both apologize to the wrong paper when it was not that paper trying to get a hold of them for comment?

Regarding the above statement by Ehl as carried in the Times Holder wrote:

“Ehl sent her apology to the Seattle Times, which is backing McKenna's run for governor.”

And on that subject Holder is again right as rain.

In this editorial here the Times waxes glowingly about how swell it will be to have McKenna as governor.

One could conceivably argue the lesson here for future politicians is:

~ Always apologize to the paper that’s backing your horse in the race. They’ll go easy on you when the water gets rough and fill your sails with sweet Spring breezes when the water is calm.

~ Stay close to where your bread is buttered.

The Stranger - unlike the Times with that very short story and no other follow up - ran a response to the Ehl Tweets from a spokeswoman for the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in Seattle that said in part, “We understand people sometimes make mistakes or tell inappropriate jokes. But as an organization that works regularly with marginalized people, many of whom rely on our programs precisely because they face language barriers most of us couldn't imagine, we can't help but be discouraged by comments like this.

Honestly, if it were that easy to "shut up and speak English," we wouldn't be helping tens of thousands of people a year with multilingual counseling services…if it were that easy to "get a wheelchair" we wouldn't be training hundreds of healthcare aides to care for homebound elderly.”

And so it goes.



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