My column last Sunday was all about right-wing, self-serving Republican Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab, who was allowed to debunk through misinformation a thoroughly researched story by The Salt Lake Tribune about his manipulation of state boards to steer federal money to his employer's projects.
The enabler was the conservative Red Meat Radio co-hosted by Rep. Greg Hughes and Sen. Howard Stephenson, both Republicans from Draper, who let Noel go on about how the money his Kane County Water Conservancy District got was not federal money, but funds "donated" to the state by oil and gas drillers.
The contention is easily disproved, which I did to the degree that my column space allowed last week.
I could spend an entire second column on the antics of Noel the manipulation of certain types of road funds so taxpayers throughout the state subsidize Kane County's lawsuits against the federal government; the threats to public employees and college professors who publicly express views that differ from his; the attacks on the press in environments where those attacks won't be questioned, all while refusing to return calls or emails to answer questions from those very media; his change of title from executive director and general manager of the Kane County Water Conservancy District to private contractor for the district after questions arose about possible violations of the Hatch Act.
Noel and his hosts joked about how The Tribune would never give him a correction or allow him to express his own arguments in the paper. He didn't share with his hosts this fact: When criticized in a Tribune editorial and again in my column for supporting the prosecution of bogus drilling lease bidder Tim DeChristopher, while he himself staged an illegal ATV ride in a federally protected wash in southern Utah, he wrote to the editorial board and copied the email to me. He saw a difference between his and DeChristopher's actions. Editorial page editor Vern Anderson responded in an email, copied to me, that invited him to write an op-ed piece in The Tribune explaining his positions. No response.
But the radio hosts' gift to Noel to spout off with no fear of contradiction is actually a symptom of a greater problem. I have criticized Red Meat Radio before. I also have written columns promoting policies or ideas heard on Red Meat Radio, giving the program credit for that. I respect Hughes and Stephenson, who are sincere in their conservative positions and have proffered worthwhile policy positions.
But with their program, they are caught up in this ugly political environment that currently plagues us in which conservatives can only admire other conservatives, and liberals can only admire other liberals, and the counter-side of their narrow political positions represents nothing but evil.
Many other radio and television programs adopt the format of Rush Limbaugh, who spews hate and fear and has made a lot of money doing it. The result is a bunch of Limbaugh wannabes and an epidemic of hate, fear-mongering and divisiveness spread through our airways and in cyberspace. And we now have elected officials who are products of this process and have shown no ability to lead or to govern, but earn their political stripes through hate talk.
One shining example is the curious congressman from Colorado, Mike Coffman, who at a recent tea party fundraiser said that he knows "in his heart" that President Obama is not an American. No proof. He just knows it. Because with that crowd, that nonsense works politically.
Like Noel, he didn't return press inquiries. Finally confronted in person by a reporter, he turned into Mortimer Snerd, repeating, as if his strings were being pulled by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen: "I stand by my statement. I apologize. I misspoke." What else could he say?
And Coffman is in a position to make laws that affect your life.