Scott D. Pierce: Deseret News columnist humiliated by ‘woke’ brain freeze — and then her inflammatory tweets resurfaced

But Bethany Mandel will continue to write about parenting and family life for the Deseret News.

(Screengrab from "Rising" on The Hill) Bethany Mandel could not define "woke" in an appearance on "Rising."

Bethany Mandel has, perhaps, learned one lesson in the past few days: Be prepared if you’re going to be interviewed. There are a couple of other concepts that she seems to be struggling with.

Mandel, who writes a weekly column for the Deseret News, recently became an online sensation in one of the worst possible ways. Mandel was invited to appear on The Hill’s daily news show ”Rising” to promote her book, “Stolen Youth,” which centers around her argument that a “woke agenda” is ruining the lives of American children.

But when the show’s host asked her to define “woke,” disaster struck. Mandel stammered, hemmed and hawed as she tried and failed to answer the question. “This is going to be one of those moments that goes viral,” Mandel said.

Boy, did it ever. The clip has been all over the internet and cable news outlets. One tweet with a clip of Mandel’s meltdown has been viewed more than 34 million times. Another has almost 11 million views. Mandel has been thoroughly humiliated.

That’s not my conclusion. Mandel herself wrote in Newsweek that those were “the most humiliating seconds of my life.”

Also in Newsweek, Mandel made excuses. Lots of excuses. Including: She has six children, three of whom were at home when she did the interview. She “panicked” when she (allegedly) heard the show’s host “speaking about parents in what I perceived to be a negative way.” (The host did not ask her about parenting.) She had a “panic attack.” It was a “brain freeze.”

You’ve got to give Mandel credit for admitting that asking her to define woke was “a fair question.” But the Newsweek piece then devolves into a sob story — she wrote, “As soon as we hung up, I broke into a sob” — that dwelled on her humiliation and how it (reportedly) affected her children.

Lesson not learned — the more excuses you make, the worse you look. And tweeting that your excuses are “not an excuse, just a reality” doesn’t help.

In the wake of going viral, internet users (Mandel calls them “trolls”) have gone through her Twitter feed and dredged up a number of her old tweets, and they’re not pretty. In the tweets, she is arguably racist against Asians and Blacks, and in one tweet apparently aimed at Palestinians, she suggests “Not nuking these f---ing animals is the only restraint I expect and that’s only because the cloud would hurt Israelis.”

She posted that in 2014. But you only have to go back to 2020 to see Mandel proudly tweeting her defiance of COVID-19 lockdown orders, taunting her detractors with: “You can call me a Grandma killer.” She also tweeted that the effects of the pandemic were overstated: “Most folks I see basically missed out on a vacation.”

More than a million Americans have died of COVID-19.

Lesson not learned — what you post online never goes away.

Utah state Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Salt Lake City, has called on the Deseret News to “cut all ties” with Mandel, who lives in Maryland. Blouin added, “It was time months or years ago, but now it’s not even questionable.”

But that’s not going to happen, according to the paper’s editor. Hal Boyd sent this statement: “Bethany Mandel is no longer contributing political opinion and culture pieces for the Deseret News, but from her perspective as a mother of six she will write longer essays and [report] features related to parenting and family life.”

He declined to comment publicly on Mandel’s inflammatory tweets.

(To be transparent, I was the TV critic at the Deseret News for two decades until I was laid off in 2010. If you check that paper’s archives, you’ll find I criticized KSL-TV, which is also owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as far back as 1990 — with the full support of the then-editors of the Deseret News.)

We all make mistakes. Mandel made a very bad one in the most public of ways. It was embarrassing for her and seriously undercut her anti-woke argument.

But I can’t find any evidence that she ever apologized for her racist tweets. Or that she’s backed off embracing being tagged as a “Grandma killer,” expressing no compassion for the vulnerable who might have been affected by her actions.

And she’ll continue to write about parenting and family life in the Deseret News.

I’m guessing none of this information will be added to her bio on deseret.com, which currently describes her as simply “a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother of six and a widely published writer and editor.”

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