Journalist, columnist is also a state employee; and the “First Disgrace of 2017 Award”

Pettus column – “New Yuletide lyrics to mark Trump regime” – Over the line and tasteless

Gary Pettus is a regular contributing columnist for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. For many years, Pettus was a member of the newspaper’s staff. At the end of his Clarion-Ledger columns, it notes “Gary Pettus is a Jackson-based journalist and contributing columnist.” It should also be noted Pettus is a state employee and works in the public affairs office at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Why is this relevant? On Dec. 19, Pettus wrote a column entitled, “New Yuletide lyrics to mark Trump regime.” He suggests revised lyrics for a very popular Christmas season song. Pettus’ revision is entitled, “It’s the Most Trumper-ful Time of the Year.” Here are just a few of the comment Pettus labeled as the “new code” for president-elect Trump: “There’ll be few books for learning, Cause most will be burning – good times for bigots – Muslims they’re jailing, Latinos expelling – great times for the sociopath. – It’s beginning to look just like the Third Reich – A swastika there and here – Christians kissing a tyrant’s rear, Burning churches all aglow – It’s going to look like Nagasaki August of ’45 – The prettiest sight to behold is not traffic on the road, Cause no one is left alive.” The “lyrics” of the Pettus column go on with more lack of taste, but I think you get the idea about the column. Hillary Clinton calling Trump supporters “deplorables” is mild compared to Pettus tossing out terms like book burners, bigots and writing about swastikas and the Third Reich. Because the anti-Trump column crosses the line, it is logical to ask other questions. Why was the column published in the Clarion-Ledger in the first place? The obvious answer is that the executive editor of the newspaper, Sam Hall, is a Democrat partisan. Unlike most editors, Hall probably didn’t bat an eye if he reviewed the column by Pettus. Pettus has taken other cheap shots at president-elect Trump. Perhaps even more significant is he has taken similar shots at Gov. Phil Bryant and Republicans in general. Reminder: Seven of the eight statewide officials in our state are Republicans and the GOP has solid majorities in both the state Senate and House. Another reminder: The Senate and House make appropriations for state government and Gov. Bryant signs the appropriation bills.

Biting the hand that feeds you in a tasteless way

The next obvious question is if I raise an issue about Pettus being a state employee, what about Charles Mitchell and Sid Salter, two other former journalists who are state

employees and write columns? Mitchell is a journalism professor at Ole Miss and Salter is the head of public affairs at Mississippi State. While Mitchell mostly drives in the left lane of the political highway, he has never written anything comparable to the anti-Trump rant by Pettus. Mitchell is fair and most of his columns are up the middle. The same is true with Salter. Since leaving the Clarion-Ledger to work at State, Salter mostly writes about public policy and writes nothing that is an embarrassment to MSU . When someone is a public employee, do they give up their First Amendment rights? Of course not. When someone is a state employee, do they give up their right to participate in politics? Again, the answer is no. But when the taxpayers of Mississippi are paying the salary of someone who writes for a newspaper, do they have the luxury of using very poor judgement? Of course not. When a state employee, paid by the taxpayers of this state, takes regular shots at the majority party in state government, it may be reasonable to point out the division of state government the employee works for is sort of like biting the hand that feeds you.

First Disgrace Of 2017

State Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, has again introduced a bill to toughen the state’s animal cruelty law. Our existing state animal cruelty law is one of the very worst in the nation. The law is even terrible in comparison to animal cruelty laws for dogs and cats in other nearby southern states. Again, the Mississippi Farm Bureau is very opposed to making the law stronger (think Farm Bureau Insurance). The opposition of that group is not only a disgrace, it is sickening. The Mississippi Farm Bureau is a throwback to the Mississippi of the 1950s and 60s. More to come.

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