Lies, Damned Lies and the Haslam Administration

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The public swamped the governor's office with complaints about Bill Haslam's crackdown against Occupy Nashville. That's the latest news from documents that reporters are demanding from the administration under the state's public records act. Of 400 emails to the governor's office, only 11 supported Haslam.

That's funny because Haslam has been telling the media he thinks the public is split over whether he needed to haul peaceful protesters to jail to make Legislative Plaza safe for democracy.

"You know, this is one of those that there’s a lot of opinions on," Haslam said Monday. "I have a lot of people who thought that when we went in and tried to implement a curfew that we were wrong. I’ve had a whole lot of people say, 'I can’t believe that’s happening on that property. If I went and set up a tent there four weeks ago, would you have let me stay?' So there’s a lot of passionate feelings around it on both sides."

"A lot of people" think the governor was wrong, but "a whole lot of people" are backing him. That's been the message from Haslam. Maybe he just hasn't had time to check his inbox.

So now we can add another item to our little list of misleading statements or outright lies told by Haslam and his minions about Occupy Nashville. On the day the curfew was sprung on an unsuspecting public, a Haslam flack told reporters there would be no arrests that night. "Not tonight," spokeswoman Lola Potter said. At 3 a.m., the troopers swept in for the first time.

That's Lie No. 1. In trying to explain it away, the governor's spinmeisters have produced yet more BS. One of them helpfully pointed out to Pith that "technically" the arrests didn't really happen that same exact night since the clock passed midnight. We still can't believe someone actually said that.

Then after the second roundup of protesters, the Safety Department continued to insist in public statements and interviews with reporters that the curfew would be enforced. Whoops! Obviously, the state's lawyers had belated realized they were walking on unsound legal ground, and Haslam had canceled the crackdown. We guess the public didn't need to know.

But our favorite fib came from Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons. He justified the arrests by complaining that the state couldn't possibly find the time "to babysit protesters." Since then, reporters have learned troopers had plenty of time to go undercover to spy on the protesters. Reams of internal THP memos show round-the-clock status reports on the protesters’ doings.

About all this, we have two words for the governor: Credibility gap. As Nixon and LBJ discovered in a different protest era, that's a bad thing.

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