Deep Thoughts from Team Pearce:
A new interpretation of, “We report, you decide.”
I had an interesting email exchange with Matt Tolman, head
of CitizensWho Oppose the Pearce Recall.
On October 24th, Tolman sent an email to the Republican precinct
committeemen in LD18, saying:
“There is a new website up that is covering information that the media is not covering about Jerry Lewis called www.meetjerrylewis.com.
Some of you will be upset that I've sent this out and I can understand. I believe that everybody should however read the information and make their own determination as to what is right and what is wrong.”
That website is a smear-site that propagates various hits on
Jerry Lewis, Russell Pearce’s opponent in the recall election. The content ranges from silly to untruthful, and relies heavily on writing byBecky Fenger, of Sonoran News.
Before writing this, I spoke to Matt Tolman about it, and he denied any knowledge of who owns or operates the site, or of having any connection other than to have forwarded a link to it.
I am satisfied by talking firsthand to those involved that
the information posted there is false, but New Times reporter Stephen Lemons also did some thorough investigative reporting that completely debunks the claims made by Ms. Fenger.
I wrote Tolman to protest his promotion of the site and its scurrilous
“[Wrong]…are claims that Jerry misappropriated $1.9 million….That is factually wrong, and I think it was based on that poorly researched article by Becky Fenger….For example, during the time period they discuss, starting in 2005, Jerry was a seminary teacher, not an employee of Sequoia. Jerry didn’t start with Sequoia until 2007. Jerry never was superintendent, and never ‘stepped down,’ as they claim. Jerry’s school, Sequoia, never did anything wrong in the case referenced; rather it was Joy schools that were accused of wrongdoing, and Sequoia was not in any way found culpable….The inaccuracies of that article are adequately identified here, or you’re welcome to investigate it yourself.
“You can say, ‘Jerry is bad, Jerry is unqualified, Jerry hates Mesa,’ and all the other things I’ve seen, and while they sound tacky and over the top to me, it seems to fall within the realm of political speech and campaigning. But when you traffic in things that are factually untrue, that enters into another area completely—one that I find degrading to our political climate.”
“What's the difference between what you…[and others]…have been saying about Russell. I don't see much difference and o [sic] would be careful about the pot calling the kettle black”
In other words, “Since I think you’ve told some lies, we’reokay to do it too.” Wow.
I seem to remember trying to make the “but he did it too” argument
a few times when I was a kid. My parents live across the street, so I walked over to see if this excuse was okay now
after all these years, and…nope. It still doesn’t fly with Mom.
Asked for specific examples of “lies” told by the Lewis
campaign, off the top of his head Tolman claimed Lewis allies have said Russell Pearce was “fired” from the MVD, whereas Tolman asserts that Pearce was replaced as director of the MVD in a politically-motivated move. The Lewis campaign has not made an issue of Pearce’s MVD experience.
I can tell you that although Jerry Lewis has cried foul on the
ever-evolving story Russell Pearce has told about his lavish Fiesta Bowl gifts, he has been very careful to stay far away from attacks on Pearce’s family, or from repeating claims that are either old, irrelevant, or tenuous. Lewis doesn’t believe, and doesn’t claim, that “Pearce is a Nazi because he endorsed J.T. Ready for Mesa’s City Council,” for example.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO
So there’s a new standard being introduced by some Pearce
supporters: Apparently you can justify spreading falsehoods by saying, “Hey, why are we responsible for what you believe? You have the right to go out and investigate, and find out for yourself if we’re telling the truth; that’s not our responsibility.” Help me come up with a catchy new phrase for this new approach.
“Did we lie? You decide.”
I actually had a good conversation with Matt Tolman, and he
said he was urging others to consider the impact to the Sequoia Schools, not just Jerry Lewis, before passing on information that might be false, and I actually believe he cares about it. The
election has been unusually divisive in our community, and Matt and I both agreed we’ll be glad when it’s over.
But should we overlook the malicious mendacity of the hit-for-hiresquad who put these tales in print? What about another incident involving Becky Fenger, who in the same article referenced above, published claims that Jerry Lewis stole items from a school?
That’s not true, according to Jerry’s boss, Ron Neil. First, they don’t sell donated items to raise money; they re-donate them to other organizations, contrary to what Fenger claimed.
Here is what happened: Two boxes of used adult clothes
and an old entertainment center, that the school couldn’t use, were donated to a teacher, Heather Glass, who was trying to raise money through a yard sale to adopt an orphan from Ethiopia. She asked
permission, and Jerry granted it. She ultimately did not use the school-donated items because she received so much other stuff from other people. The clothes were subsequently given to a thrift
store, and the entertainment center went back to sit in storage at the school.
From that incident, Fenger, and Pearce supporters who relied on her information, fabricated a story that “Jerry Lewis stole from homeless children.”
Constantin Querard’s pro-Pearce group, “Arizona Deserves the Best,” even sent a mailer claiming that Lewis “stole backpacks from homeless children.” Backpacks?
Where did he get that from? That’s a complete fabrication. The “theft” narrative is not even true according to Diane Fernichio, whose wrongful termination lawsuit was the original source of this information.
She claimed that she was fired in part because she complained about Lewis and the donation incident. Her lawyer’s statement about the issue simply declared that Fernichio felt it was improper to give the items to an individual, and that they should have gone to a non-profit organization—which they finally did, although they passed through an individual first. Perdón.
Supposedly Chuck Coughlin was rumored to have personally shopped this story to respectable news outlets, who I’m guessing all turned it down for a reason: one or two simple phone calls clear it all up.
And we’re talking about maybe $40-$50 worth of used stuff. The hit-squad’s “Lewis scandal” just doesn’t pass the sniff test, not to mention the who-cares test.
- Was the school deprived of resources? No.
- Did Lewis profit personally? No.
- Did they break faith with those who donated the used items? Only
If the Pearce apologists actually cared about homeless children, they would have taken the $10,000-$20,000 they spent mailing
this tale to everyone in LD18…and donated it to homeless children.
And where is Russell Pearce’s voice in this? I know, I know…he had no idea all this was being done by his proxies and supporters.
And that may very well be true.
But just as in the Olivia Cortes scandal, Pearce could have simply said, “I don’t think this is right, and I call on it to stop.” And it would have stopped. But he didn’t do that, and his silence is
Tyler Montague is a vice-chair of the LD18 Republicans, and a life-long resident of Mesa. He and his father approached Jerry Lewis and asked him to consider running in the race for LD18’s Senate seat.