Does Anyone Fact Check Paul Rolly?

I enjoy reading Paul Rolly’s columns in the Salt Lake Tribune. They’re great entertainment, full of inside stories and anecdotes. But are they accurate?

Last night’s Rolly column featured Speaker Greg Hughes staring down freshman Rep. Norm Thurston over Rep. Angela Romero’s House Bill 74, which dealt with the definition of consent for sexual offenses. As voting began, Thurston’s vote immediately appeared on the board as a “No,” despite expectation that voting would unanimously support the bill.

Rolly writes that as the votes came in, other legislators urged Thurston to change his vote, but he refused to budge. Only after Hughes held the vote open for four minutes, staring at Thurston the whole time, did Thurston change his vote.

It’s a juicy story. But it’s not what happened.

Rolly writes:

A funny thing then happened.

Hughes, who as speaker controls the board, did not close the vote. He instead kept it open and glared down at Thurston.

Two minutes went by. Three minutes. Four minutes. Hughes did not look away.

Finally, Thurston blinked.

He changed his vote to “yes,” and Romero’s bill went to the Senate with, eventually, a unanimous nod from the House.

Except that’s not what happened. You can pull up the video and watch it yourself. You don’t have to take my, or Rolly’s, word for it.

The vote opened and Thurston’s vote is the lone vote in opposition. Then, instead of four minutes passing, it took Thurston just about 45 seconds to change his vote from “No” to “Yes.”

45 seconds. Not four minutes of staring while everyone else waited. In fact, the body was still waiting for Representatives Fred Cox, Brian King, and Jim Dunnigan to cast their votes, all of who didn’t vote until after Thurston changed his vote.

And was the board still open so that Hughes could persuade Thurston to change his vote to support the bill? Sure, it’s possible.  But a 45-second stare down is not a 4-minute stare down.

If there was a stare down at all.

Sigh. And it was such a great story, too.

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