In Saturday’s Deseret News, John Florez writes an article bashing the Utah Legislature. For his weekly column, it’s nothing new. He often bashes the Legislature. Everyone got the message long ago that he doesn’t agree with them and doesn’t like them. So if today’s article was only about what John doesn’t like about legislators, it wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy.
This time however, he accuses lawmakers of violating the law and committing felonies. Using a pithy quote, he glibly impugns legislators in a way he would never do to others.
Elected officials are treated differently than ordinary citizens when it comes to free speech. Courts have ruled our policy makers are fair game for almost any outlandish accusation. And today’s John Florez article is a good example of this. Under law, you can say almost anything you want about officeholders without consequence. Look no further than other political opinion articles. But that doesn’t make it right.
John’s thesis is subject to debate – that legislators don’t pay enough attention to public opinion polls and that there isn’t enough public scrutiny of bills. Or even the role of special interests.
But John didn’t stop there. He said, “Make the drop…you can buy any politician for five hunndrit dollars”…”[Legislators] must know their stuff, or maybe were told how to vote – just “make the drop.”
The funny thing about John’s comments are that he also often writes on the need for civil discourse. Then, when it suits him, he is uncivil.
Maybe John isn’t entirely to blame. Media outlets who allow hyperbole or invective to be printed, are often seen as tacitly endorsing it.
The Legislature and individual legislators as public figures are subject to criticism, but John Florez has gone too far. He crossed lines of civility and, in a way, the article was a condemnation of himself. Instead of legislators’ credibility, it is his own credibility at stake.
I have no allusions it will happen, but legislators deserve an apology.