False Smears of Character — Neither Side can Claim the Moral High Ground

It’s been an absolutely crazy two weeks in American politics with the latest U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh being smeared incessantly by the Democratic party, its elected officials, and their very supportive media outlets. I am sure average Americans are appalled and disgusted by such a humiliating deformation of which many believe has previously been one of the few political processes with some civility…unless you are Justice Clarence Thomas or Judge Robert Bork, both conservatives. Justice Thomas remarked that his experience was an “electronic lynching” and that it was such a devastating attack on his character with very weak he said/she said evidence. The latest smears on Kavanaugh don’t even hold up under the standards applied to the Thomas case, as none, I repeat none, of the witnesses of the sexual assault named by the accuser support her story in any way. Plainly speaking, there is no civility left in our public discourse on either side of the political aisle lest we think the issue is one-sided.

And yes, the problem roots all the way down to the local level.

Here is a false-character smear targeted at me and my family during a state representative campaign by a Republican political action committee named Three Rivers PAC:

Character smear campaign mailer using photograph of retired Colonel Rob Maness and free-speech advocate Milo Yiannopoulos at Louisiana State University College Republicans Trump Campaign Event. (Credit: Colonel Rob Maness)

The mailer was sent out the day before the election and…guess what? Since it included no context, it worked. The woman that delivers our mail actually hand-delivered it to my wife in tears, so she would not find it in the mailbox and be surprised. So, Republicans took an innocent picture and turned it into a message of sexual smear on my character that deeply hurt my friends. The photograph is of me and free-speech advocate and President Trump surrogate Milo Yiannopoulos dressed in drag at a Trump Campaign event. He was the main event speaker and I was invited by the Louisiana State University College Republicans, co-sponsors of the event. Just moments before the picture was taken, I thanked Milo for advocating free speech in a nation that wasn’t even his own. I also told him I was a Christian and prayed for him daily.

Individuals supporting this same group also partnered with a progressive who calls himself “Flaming Liberal” to conduct a media campaign accusing me of using profanity on my Monday evening radio talk show. The media outlet even went as far as to edit the recording they published on television and in print in such a way that it sounded like I went on a 20-second profanity-laced rant at the individual for calling me an extremist when, in fact, I used a pretty common term (“blow me” is not an uncommon term in military culture) as part of the entertainment factor and as a tactic to cut off his call. The facts were that the progressive liberal used profanity but the initial media editing looked like I did. The article now plays the entire exchange because we challenged the media outlet and asked them to put out the actual recording instead of their edited version. The edited version played on the 6 o’clock news, so the damage was already done. You can hear the unedited version and read the transcript for yourself.

My life’s record is very public, but I’ll just remind you that I am a husband, father of five, grandfather of five, and served with honor, integrity, and selfless sacrifice in the United States Air Force for more than 32 years, rising to senior leader rank and holding very sensitive command positions. I take full responsibility for my actions, including language that offends some, but if my character and integrity were as this Republican group portrayed me as, implying I am unfit for office, it would have been revealed long ago.

Look, we have all done something in our lives that can be twisted to make up stories and even that we may not be proud of. Take President Trump’s comments recorded on the Access Hollywood tapes, for example. In that case, the mainstream media again skewed the coverage to make the man out as a raving sexual predator, but when I listened to the tape I found really lewd talk but not the man portrayed in much of the coverage. In fact, I was in a U.S. Senate race at the time and was the only candidate initially to stand by Mr. Trump from day one of the tape’s publication by The Washington Post. Mr. Trump even admitted he said it and apologized for his actions publicly. I still see an imperfect human being in Mr. Trump, one that says he has accepted Christ, and a man that admits he has not been perfect in his life. That’s why I stuck with him firmly and unequivocally. Lest you think my support of Mr. Trump is easy, that is not the case. I supported Ted Cruz in the 2016 Presidential primary and Mr. Trump has personally attacked me politically, damaging my first U.S. Senate campaign without even giving me the opportunity to discuss it with him in depth.

Politics is a dirty, nasty, filthy business and we should all recognize it on both sides.

Those of us that enter the political arena accept that our entire lives, words, and actions are open to inspection, regardless of the office. The tragedy we are seeing unfold now is different, however. Judge Brett Kavanaugh has had six FBI background checks over the years. While I respect any person that reports sexual assault—and we all should—the facts do not, I repeat do not, support the accuser’s stories in any of these cases. I’m sure, like me and President Trump, Judge Kavanaugh expects his life facts to be revealed, but this effort to falsely smear his character goes beyond the pale and only hurts our entire country.

Perhaps it is time we all turn inward, look at ourselves and our actions first, then turn toward our opponents and re-commit with each other to steer the public debate in our institutions, like the United States Senate, toward civility and a focus on the founding principles of the United States that we can all agree on. Maybe, just maybe, the examples set there will have a positive effect on the cultural divide existing in America today. Otherwise, this fight will continue to intensify because people like me refuse to put up with one-sided character smears or political correctness, and we will fight fire with fire.