Delay in responding to gay swipe hurt Hewitt & WW

Sen. Mike Hewitt was unhappy his staff member made the regrettable remark. Hewitt must now make his views clear to all.

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The public images of Sen. Mike Hewitt — and Walla Walla — have taken a hit this week.

Unfortunately, Hewitt did not make a statement until today regarding the claim on a website that one of his staff members made an outrageous retort slamming gays. It went viral, meaning it was seen on millions of computers across the nation.

A quick response would have reduced the nation’s outrage by providing Hewitt’s views on the issue and enfusing context.

Hewitt said the staff member made a big mistake and regrets it.

The posting by Meredith Bennett-Smith on the Huffington Post politics page website says Seattle resident Jay Castro, identified as a reader of Seattle-based alternative weekly The Stranger, called Hewitt’s office in Olympia to question his support for legislation dealing with the ability of businesses to deny services to customers for religious or philosophical differences.

Hewitt staff person is reported to have been asked, “What are rural gays supposed to do if the only gas station or grocery store for miles won’t sell them gas and food?” The staff member reportedly said, “Gay people can just grow their own food.”

Hewitt, in talking to U-B reporter Sheila Hagar this morning, said his cellphone was in his jacket that he left at the Fairgrounds (where his wife is manager). He said he was outside all day and was unaware of the firestorm triggered by the remark.

Hewitt said his staffer was prodded by the Stranger until he lost his temper and made the inappropriate comment. Hewitt said his staffer called him immediately and they had a discussion about treating people appropriately when they call. (See today’s front page for details.)

Being angry is not an excuse. But it is good Hewitt was unhappy with his staff member and attempted to deal with the problem immediately.

At this point, the story has circulated the globe a few times and has been interpreted in many different ways. It won’t be a shock if this is a punch line for Jay Leno, David Letterman or Jon Stewart.

Hewitt and Walla Walla are not going to look good.

Hewitt’s support of this bad piece of legislation regarding denying service made the situation worse. The piece of legislation by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, is broad and would seem to open the door for legalized discrimination.

Hewitt conceded to Hagar he should have read the bill more carefully. He said he signed on strictly over concern the issue created when a Richland florist was sued by the state for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding.

The state has been a leader in approving gay rights, and we believe that’s something to cheer.

The nation got an unfortunate and apparently unintended snapshot of Walla Walla and the state.

Hewitt needs to make his views clear to all and put this behind us.

Comments

namvet60 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Well this is for the editorial - How many times have events happened to bring Walla Walla to the limelight? Now that this has happened the paper (or editor) will not let it rest. Unbelievable!

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loplover 11 months, 3 weeks ago

It's unfortunate for Walla Walla in general that this staffer made such a cutting remark, especially considering how dependent we are on the tourist trade. It's more unfortunate, however, that Hewitt is co-sponsoring a piece of discriminatory legislation designed to undercut the will of the voters who approved same-sex marriage in the state.

However, the truth is that this is what Walla Walla is, for the most part. If I were someone thinking of retiring or otherwise settling here and held the---gasp!---"liberal" beliefs that the vast majority of Washingtonians hold, incidents such as this would cause me to think twice.

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Ropehorse 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Then move to the westside where the "VAST" majority of liberals live and quit whining when someone disagrees with your beliefs. Are we all not entitled to our opinion ?? To respect someones opinion is not the same as agreeing with it !!

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paco1234 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The "VAST" majority of our Walla Walla community, both liberalas and conservative are nice people who are concerned about keeping it as one of the best towns to live in America. Nobody needs to move "to the westside" . We liberals are contributing to our society in all wakes of life, and as much as conservatives have. We are here to stay! Disagreeing in sexual orientation is not the same as refusing to serve a customer just because of sexual orientation. Likewise giving respectfull customer service to a gay person does not mean agreeing with his or her sexual orientation. I just cannot imagine one of my gay friends treated with the incredible rejection of being denied service at any Walla Walla business because of their sexual orientation. So far it hasn't happened, and I hope it will never, never happens.

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gutchef 11 months, 3 weeks ago

In all this hubbub has anyone gotten an answer to the question about remote, rural areas served only by a couple or a few merchants? I would also like to know when the poll was taken Hewitt referenced. I'm guessing it wasn't taken yesterday. Of all the human rights issues that have come up in my lifetime of over 60 years, none has taken off so fast and had as much inertia as the Gay Rights Movement. I'll just hazzard a guess that the florist in the middle of all this will not be operating within a year or two. An unfortunate victim of the culture wars.

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hinzkj 11 months, 3 weeks ago

So will Sen. Hewitt now be removing his name from the bill since he didn't read it carefully? For me, the problem has never been the staffer- it is the bill itself. I can't imagine putting your name on legislation without really reading it. It only took me a very few minutes to read, and it seems sloppy to not take those few minutes. If he does not remove his name from the legislation, this will confirm his true views about this issue. If he truly didn't know what he was sponsoring, that is another problem that needs some addressing.

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ImJustSayin 11 months, 3 weeks ago

What firestorm??? I've yet to see this non-story mentioned once on the national news networks. I've friends coming to town this weekend for spring release and will have to stay with me as all of the hotels are sold out. Nobody cares what a Hewitt staffer said and WW will in no way suffer.

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namvet60 11 months, 3 weeks ago

If only somebody would learn how to read - In Mr. Hewitts counseling of his staffer he stated that he was a traditional guy and that was his stance on the issue. How hard is that to understand or do some of you need a picture letter?

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PearlY 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Curious. I just did a search of news sources to see how much of "the nation" is "outraged" by this story, and it turns out that it is not running on any wire service, radio or TV station online news, or news outlet other than - wait for it! The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the Huffington Post (whose blogger allegedly made the original call), and various gay blogs or gay news sources such as The Stranger.

Everybody who was worried that Walla Walla's economy was about to tank can breathe easier. The U-B's efforts to do that don't seem to be gaining much traction yet. Of course, they may keep trying, but surely that is counterproductive?

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