PR Mission from Hell: Williams Tries to Make People Like Legislature


We can't back it up with polling, but Pith suspects the legislature's approval rating has plunged to all-time lows as a result of the black comedy of the just-finished session. Our loony lawmakers devoted themselves to guns and abortion and pointless political bickering as the economy tanked. Then in one last writhing spasm of witlessness, Senate Republicans tried to kill the few job-creating initiatives in the governor's budget. This week, the governor was talking about the guns-in-bars law, but he could have been referring to the entire session when he said of the public reaction, "They're just shaking their heads and thinking it's craziness."

Well, House Speaker Kent Williams has taken it upon himself to fix that. He's embarked on a PR mission to persuade the public that the legislature actually was focused on the economy. Really, it was. No kidding.

Yesterday, reporters for three of the state's major dailies--Andy Sher, Tom Humphrey and Rick Locker--dutifully trooped into the speaker's office for a private, invitation-only propaganda pitch from Williams. It's only his latest effort. He's flacking a column in which he gives a bizarre, parallel universe view of legislative accomplishments. According to the speaker's column:

"In the Tennessee House we set as our goals to invest in job opportunities and economic growth, provide additional assistance to those hardworking men and women who have lost their jobs, protect funding for Pre-K as well as K-12 education, give additional help and protection to our elderly, provide for the health and safety of our citizens, pass a fiscally responsible budget and go home. We did just that."

The speaker's flack, Scotty Campbell, says his boss isn't having much success talking newspapers into printing this column (probably because even hillbilly newspaper editors recognize bullshit when they see it). "We're not getting a great reception even in Northeast Tennessee," where Williams lives, Campbell admits.

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