Creating distance from a problem

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

Bad boy blogger Kelly Hinton has been kicked to the curb.

Ann Rivers, running for the 18th Legislative district here, said the acerbic, controversial blogger would no longer be driving in her campaign’s parades.

Rivers has said in the past that is the only connection her friend Hinton has had to her campaign. However, Hinton’s blog has referred to the Rivers campaign as “our” campaign.

In addition, Rivers is no longer a Facebook friend of Kage McClued, a fake name Hinton has used throughout his political operative work to attack those he doesn’t like.

Hinton had used the fake name to say how much he liked things on Rivers’ Facebook page.

Rivers’ decision to distance herself from Hinton came shortly after last week’s “Press Talk” column here raised questions about Rivers’ connection to Hinton.

Last week’s column tackled the concept of guilt by association. Put simply, how accountable should someone be held for the associations they have, for the company they keep?

The strongest national example of this — as mentioned last week here — connected then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama attended the church where Wright hung his hat.

No need to detail all of Hinton’s tomfoolery but years ago he was suspended as a legislative aide in Olympia. There was an investigation around his gaining access to Senate employees’ personal e-mail and then disclosing the contents.

Presently, his blog uses phrases like “waste of political skin, scummier elements; despicable, dishonorable conduct; moronic, consummate liar and nut jobs.”

Both Democrat and Republican officials have distanced themselves from it.

Judged by who you hang with?

Like Obama, Rivers doesn’t think she should be judged on the basis of her associates. But, frankly, this is about what voters think. And judging by the comments on my column last week, whom one hangs with is a factor.

Related stories

For a look back at last week's Press Talk column, click here.

To read a 2003 archive story about Hinton's suspension as a Senate aide, click here.

We also ran an unscientific poll on this topic. After more than 1,000 votes, 65 percent said you should be judged by the company you keep. Only 20 percent said you shouldn’t.

One comment on our Web poll: “Who you are friends with is a great indicator of who you are. Like the old saying goes, if you lay down with dogs, you are going to get fleas. Hinton has a lot of fleas.”

So where are we with this?

Hinton — like the Rev. Wright — isn’t news by himself. Screaming bloggers are a dime a dozen. These guys are news because they have been tied, on some level, to politicians.

And both Obama and Rivers took steps to make a split.

Obama, however, denounced what Wright had to say. I asked Rivers if she would condemn Hinton’s political blog.

“I can neither condemn or support it because I don’t read it,” she said.

And she wouldn’t speak at all to her personal friendship with Hinton. “What I do in my personal life is my business.”

She’s still the best

You might think after reading all this that I think poorly of Rivers. Truth is, I do not. She has taken some steps to separate herself from Hinton. And just like Obama’s campaign, personal associations are only a part of why someone might or might not vote for you.

It worked out OK for Obama and I believe it will work out OK for Rivers.

In a later column, I’ll explore how this is an example of how good newspapers are able to support a candidate (from an opinion standpoint) but still hold them accountable (from a news standpoint.) You won’t find that on many blogs.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.