Today’s print edition of the Manassas Journal-Messenger has a very unusual letter to the editor from the wife of Sheriff candidate Mike Messier which compares my coverage of the sheriff’s race with the behavior of Cho Seung-Hui, the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre. The general gist of the article is that their daughter apparently attends Virginia Tech and was disturbed to find out that her father, who is running a decidedly negative campaign himself against the very man who cleaned up the mess that Lee Stoffregen and Mike Messier left three and a half years ago, has been criticized on this site and is now fearful of the safety of her father. To buttress this unusual claim, Messier’s wife complains about my use of a quote from R. Lee Ermey “if you don’t learn from past mistakes, you need to be drug out and shot” during a legislative update I gave to the county Republican Committee in February.
Mike Messier is a law enforcement officer with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Department. His job carries sufficient risk that he is issued a sidearm at taxpayer’s expense in order to defend himself from violent criminals. I’d imagine that after doing this for twenty eight years, he wouldn’t get all panicky when voters criticize his record and his campaign activities on a website. I’m also surprised that his family, well experienced with the dangers of his profession, would seem think that a website is going to jump up and attack an armed law enforcement officer. But it sure does make for a heart-rending story, of how a local blogger’s “hate-filled statements and lies” are hurting a Virgina Tech student.
Here’s what’s apparently causing so much angst for this candidate: that he either knew or should have known as Lee Stoffregen’s Chief Deputy about Stoffregen’s sale of Sheriff’s Department credentials in exchange for campaign contributions. That Messier told the county committee that he would give $10,000 to the committee if elected, which can reasonably be interpreted as the solicitation of a bribe, and that a complaint in that regard has been filed with the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney. That Messier held a fundraiser at a somewhat disreputable bar that is a frequent target for undercover operations of the Joint Narcotics Task Force. That he is asking Republican voters to cast ballots for him in a primary election when he rarely has participated in primaries himself. That his only political activity to speak of is running a campaign for a Democrat, and that he has actively campaigned against Republican candidates. All of this is documented fact, which so far hasn’t been refuted by the Messier campaign in any substantial way.
Messier’s own campaign however is an interesting example of outright lying. His campaign website claims that Glen Hill “increased the Sheriff’s Office budget by $3 million while cutting citizen programs and law enforcement duties”. There is no basis whatsoever for that claim, and the county’s budget documents demonstrate that this claim is clearly a false allegation. Sheriff Hill’s first budget was in 2006, and $7,260,524 was spent by the department, The department’s spending in 2007 was $7,200,846. The budget for 2008 for the Sheriff’s Department is $7,105,794, which is a cut over last year’s spending. There is no $3 million dollar increase here. When it is so obvious that Mike Messier is willing to lie to the voters, it’s really hard to take it at face value when he courageously hides behind his wife’s skirt in order to shoot back at the messenger who is documenting just how bad a candidate for office he really is.
It’s disconcerting to learn that Mike Messier and his family were affected by the outrage that happened at Virginia Tech. If he and his family needed a little time to regroup, I certainly would have laid off for a while had anyone bothered to ask, or done so of my own initiative if anyone had said what was going on. Instead Mike Messier’s campaign rolled along without mentioning this now supremely significant issue. He seems to have held his scheduled meet & greet on April 22nd, attended a PWCRC meeting on the 26th, and as far as anyone can reasonably determine was in full campaign mode in the aftermath. That’s a good thing for Messier, as it’s not seemly for a Sheriff’s candidate to “get wobbly” when tragedy strikes.
In direct contrast to that display of strength, today we see this surprise broadside from his wife. I’m scaring his children. I’ve “lied and twisted stories to meet [my] own needs”, and “some of [my] writings compared to the Virginia Tech shooter”. This is so completely over the top it’s really hard to take it seriously. Forgive me for perhaps mistaking this for a desperate attempt to gain political advantage by a candidate who so far has been entirely unable to answer the questions raised about his qualifications for office. It’s just too convenient to dodge the criticism like this, and too ridiculous to equate that criticism with the actions of a madman who murdered thirty two innocent people last month.
Next are we going to hear “stop, or my mom will shoot?”
UPDATE: Here’s the letter:
Meanness spread by local blogger
Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
After reading Leonard Pitts’ column in the News & Messenger regarding meanness, I felt compelled to put my words and feelings on paper. I have struggled with panic, relief, sorrow and worry throughout this past week. My youngest daughter is a student at Virginia Tech and after hearing about the shootings at work I panicked, worrying for her safety.
When I finally connected with her, I felt blessed she was safe. Then my heart filled with sorrow for all the parents and families that lost their loved ones in this senseless tragedy.
Finally, I worry about my daughter having had to experience such a horrific event, losing friends and being surrounded by such sorrow when these should be her best of times.
My daughter insisted on being one of the students that stayed in Blacksburg during the barrage of media because the faculty and students of Virginia Tech are a strong family. But on Thursday, she surprised us all by showing up on our doorstep. I held her in my arms; we had a long cry session and talked for hours.
That night I learned that somehow she was informed about a local blog that is filled with hate-filled statements and lies. The blogger has written horrible things about her father.
He has lied and twisted stories to meet his own needs. She can’t seem to understand how a person can write such terrible things about a person he doesn’t even know. Then she told me how some of his writings compared to the Virginia Tech shooter and it hit me like being punched in the stomach. She is worried for her father’s safety.
So I want to take this opportunity to thank Greg Letiecq. With all your hate-filled ranting and ravings about my husband, my daughter’s father, you have instilled additional fear in her life. Good job. It also makes me think that maybe what she said is right. Maybe you are someone whose writings and actions we should be closely watching.
I recall very vividly at the last PWC Republican meeting when you abruptly interrupted the meeting in order to rant that certain politicians “should be taken out and shot.”
So you’re right Mr. Pitts, this world is full of meanness and hate. And, unfortunately, we live in a country where nothing can be done until tragedies like Virginia Tech happen, and then we can only wring our hands and wonder where we went wrong.
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