The 6th District Congressional race is just getting started, but state Rep. Lenar Whitney is already making it clear that she’s not just running against her ten or so opponents. She’s also running against what she’s called the “lamestream media” — a pet phrase of Sarah Palin, Whitney’s apparent role model.
Whitney took to Twitter Friday to lash out at a reporter who handicaps Congressional races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, alleging that he not only misrepresented what happened during her interview but that he’s out to get her.
“What @CookPolitical printed about me is an outright lie. I left interview w/ @Redistrict several ?s later, after he asked if I was a birther,” she wrote. “It was obvious from onset of the interview that @Redistrict had planned to jump me bc he is a liberal shill who despises conservative women.”
“@Redistrict” is actually a veteran journalist named David Wasserman, and this is what he wrote about Whitney in his 6th District roundup (the Cook Political Report is only available to paying subscribers).
While Dan Claitor, Paul Dietzel and Garret Graves round out the top GOP tier at this point, “the newest wild card in the race is state Rep. Lenar Whitney, a dance studio owner from Houma who hopes to rally the southern reaches of LA-06 (about 13 percent of the vote) and takes kindly to the moniker ‘Palin of the South.’ ”
“In late June, Whitney posted a YouTube video entitled ‘GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX’ in which she claims ‘any 10 year old’ can disprove the theory with a household thermometer. Shortly after being asked to explain how she arrived at her views in a recent interview with the Cook Political Report, she fled the room.
One neutral Louisiana observer admits that while Whitney is just as much of a loose cannon and potential embarrassment to the state as (Democratic former Gov. Edwin) Edwards, her over-the-top brand of provocation could sell with some elements of the party. Furthermore, her presence in the southern tentacle of the 6th CD could sap some votes from Graves, best known for his coastal restoration efforts. Still, at this juncture, Graves looks best-positioned,” Wasserman wrote.
Friday, Wasserman said Whitney’s the one who’s twisting things, particularly his attitude toward Republican women.
“I’ve interviewed many, many very conservative women and I’ve been impressed by many of them,” he said. “It’s fair to say she wasn’t one of the candidates who’s impressed us.”
Wasserman said he asked Whitney the same sorts of questions he asks male candidates, and that “it’s part of our standard procedure and our responsibility to gauge how candidates stand up to tough questioning. We believe that’s a pretty good indicator of how a candidate will perform in the race.” Although Whitney stuck to her claims about global warming, he said she “was unable to offer any evidence” despite repeated questions.
He said Whitney and her team did indeed leave after he asked whether she thought President Barack Obama was born in the United States, not immediately following the global warming exchange. Wasserman said he decided to ask “given her unusual positions on some other issues.”
“She replied that it was a matter of some controversy,” he said. Her aides objected and described the meeting as a “Palin-style interview,” he said, and Whitney ended the session.
Update: The long-distance war of words continued Wednesday, when Wasserman took to the Washington Post’s new PostEverything opinion blog to tell the world just what he thought of Whitney and their aborted interview. And he didn’t beat around the bush.
“Never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be,” Wasserman wrote. “She clearly relishes poking Democrats in the eye, cites Minnesota’s Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) as a political role model, and takes kindly to the nickname ‘Palin of the South.’ ”
“Whitney’s brand of rhetoric obviously resonates with some very conservative Louisiana voters who view President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency as big-city elitists directly attacking the state’s energy industry and their own way of life. And she would hardly be the first ‘climate denier’ elected to Congress,” he wrote. “But it’s not unreasonable to expect candidates to explain how they arrived at their positions, and when I pressed Whitney repeatedly for the source of her claim that the earth is getting colder, she froze and was unable to cite a single scientist, journal or news source to back up her beliefs.”
He also wrote that “it was the first time in hundreds of Cook Political Report meetings that a candidate has fled the room.”
Whitney spokesman Chris Comeaux pointed to the online column as evidence of Whitney’s initial claims on Twitter, including that Wasserman has it in for her because she’s a conservative woman.
“It was obviously a jump,” Comeaux said of the interview. “He even brought interns to watch. He asked her a bunch of times about the video. He kept being snarky. As we’re leaving the room, he throws out the Kenya question.”
Comeaux said he doesn’t remember her saying anything in response — “he’s talking to people who are literally leaving the room” — but says her stance is that “of course Obama was born in America.”
Comeaux also criticized the Post for initially illustrating the item with an unflattering photo of Bachmann, the much-mocked congresswoman and former presidential candidate. The picture was later replaced with a link to Whitney’s video claiming global warming is a hoax.
“This is the real war on women,” he insisted.
Which will apparently be the last word in this strange back-and-forth.
Reached by email, Wasserman wrote that “we here at the Cook Report are moving on and have nothing more to say about the matter.”