Robert Gehrke: Salt Lake County Republicans picked a charlatan to speak at their fundraiser

Robert Gehrke

A little over a month ago, conservative conspiracy-peddling pundit, author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was on Fox News with former Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and he posited a bold claim.

“A very good experiment,” D’Souza said, “is if you walk up to a homeless guy who says he’s hungry and you offer him an apple. I give you 50-50 odds that he will throw that apple at your face.”

He went on to say: “A lot of people naively might think, ‘Oh wow, isn’t this terrible, all these Americans walking around without homes.’ Now the truth of the matter is the majority of homeless people are either drug addicts or they’re alcoholics.”

What a remarkable claim, that these people aren’t hungry. They just want your money to buy drugs and booze.

Fortunately, D’Souza also offered an easy way to test his claim, “a very good experiment,” as he put it, so I decided to take him up on his suggestion.

It so happens that D’Souza is scheduled to be in Utah this week, giving the keynote address at the Salt Lake County Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner. So, via Twitter, I invited D’Souza to join me, to come downtown and hand out apples or sandwiches or whatever.

If half of them threw the food in our faces, as he attests would happen, then I would personally donate $100 to the Utah Food Bank. If they didn’t, then he would do the same. Others wanted in on the action and offered up several hundred dollars more.

But, despite all his seeming confidence and certainty, D’Souza never responded.

It was disappointing, but I decided this week that I’d go ahead and test his assertion anyway, so I picked up some apples and sandwiches — because getting hit in the face with an apple would hurt — and walked around Library Square downtown giving them to some of the people gathered there.

Something truly shocking happened: Not one of those people threw any food at my face, or any other part of my body, for that matter.

(And it should be noted that these were just simple Subway sandwiches, and, really, if you’re going to throw a sandwich at someone, it would probably be a Subway sandwich.)

Nor were there any apples thrown at me. One woman declined to take an apple because she didn’t have any teeth. But other than that, they were happy to have them. One young man was happier than I’ve ever seen anyone to get an apple.

“Oh man, honeycrisp! These are the best,” he gushed.

I told a woman named Kim (who wouldn’t tell me her last name) what D’Souza had said and her take was “That’s such a load of crap.” People are hungry, she said, and so grateful for whatever they have.

I don’t claim to be a scientist, but here are a few of my takeaways from this “very good experiment.”

1. It is possible that somewhere someone is having 100% of the food offered to people living on the streets thrown at his or her face. If this is the case, more research would be needed to determine why those people are so surly.

2. Maybe Dinesh D’Souza has the kind of face that people just can’t help but throw things at. I think there is a high likelihood this is the case.

3. People living on the streets are actually — stick with me here — still people, and are grateful when they are treated with kindness and basic human decency, especially when they are cold and hungry.

4. D’Souza is a coward for not joining me on the experiment. He might have actually learned something about takeaway No. 3.

5. He is also a habitual liar. More than that, he is the worst kind of liar, who concocts his fabrications with a specific intent to vilify people he sees as beneath him and inflame hatred for those with whom he disagrees.

Claiming drug-addicted homeless people throw apples at his face is barely a blip on his generally rotten record.

He tweeted that President Barack Obama was “ghetto;” published a list of closeted homosexuals; downplayed slavery, saying slaves were treated well and defended segregation as protecting blacks; he blamed the “cultural left” and Hollywood for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack; and the list goes on and on.

6. He is a convicted felon. This is not really germane to the experiment, but it is relevant when assessing what kind of person D’Souza is. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house and five years probation for paying his mistress at the time and another couple to make campaign contributions to a Senate candidate — which is illegal.

President Donald Trump pardoned him in 2018, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a criminal. So when he is quick to degrade his fellow humans, it might be worth remembering, “Let he who is without sin cast the first apple.”

7. The Salt Lake County Republican Party should be embarrassed to be putting him on the podium Friday night. He is an abysmal representation of the values — or what used to be the values — of “The party of Lincoln,” and all of those reasonable Republicans in the county and beyond should keep in mind that you are judged by the company you keep.

One last thing, if you go and end up being seated next to D’Souza, be prepared to duck.