Am I That Guy Who Made Those Statements?

by Timothy Horrigan; September 1, 2010 & September 8, 2010, January 15, 2012 & February 2, 2013

© 2010 Timothy Horrigan; all rights reserved; please do not reprint or broadcast without advance permission

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I probably am that guy, but most of what was said about me during my 15 minutes of infamy in August 2010 had nothing to do with anything I (or anyone else, for that matter) actually said or did.

OK, I definitely am "that guy", but those may not have been my statements. My web site has over 200 pages on it, and there is all sorts of other information out there about me and there are all sorts of people who have had dealings with me. Most of that information reflects well on me, but I am a somewhat unconventional person, and August 11-12, 2010 was not the first time I have made mistakes. There is plenty of stuff out there which could be twisted against me. Ironically, very little of the vast amount of information about me was ever examined. No one ever dug beneath my surface, and I suppose that is just as well.

Most of the commentators on FoxNews and the like were working from third-hand summaries. These summaries apparently just said that two Democrat politicians in New Hampshire with almost indistinguishably similar names (Tim Horrigan and Keith Halloran) had said horrendous things about Sarah Palin and that The Left had failed to react with sufficient outrage.  If you look at Rush Limbaugh's "Dittocam video" you can actually see him picking up his assistant's summary: Rush spoke with his usual eloquence and wit but he also spoke with no direct knowledge. 

One oddity of TV news in the 2000s is that on the one end there is this huge 24/7 news hole to fill up with commentary— while on the other hand there is also still a tradition of quick and dirty reportage left over from the days when the news was only broadcast during two half-hour slots at 6:00 and 11:00 in the evening. I spoke to two blow-dried broadcast-news dudes in person and two others by phone. All four of them did good work, even though they were biased against me. They asked intelligent questions and chose apropros soundbites. Their work was good, but it was very hasty: none of them spent more than 10 minutes talking to me. I understand why they had to work hastily: they had to get a 90-second segment edited and on the air within the hour (and at least two of them had to put up written stories on their organizations' web sites as well.)

The network which spent the most time talking about me was FoxNews: they had an intern look over my web site but otherwise they never even called me up on the phone. Even if you agree with FoxNews's ideological bias, I should warn you that Fox's endless stream of commentary springs from just the bare minimum amount of news-gathering. Those morons at Fox quite literally don't know what the hell they are talking about.

It was surprisingly hard to round up my actual statements three weeks after the fact. Even though nothing on the web ever disappears, sometimes things get moved to out-of-the-way places. Special thanks to Steve MacDonald from the rightwing GraniteGrok blog for writing two surprisingly thoughtful blog postings, and for actually quoting me accurately.

One of the most depressing things I learned is that explaining yourself doesn't help— at least not with the mainstream media. They always stick with the first version of what you said, and any attempt to clarify and/or contradict yourself is just used to prove that you really meant what you said the first time.

My first Facebook statement was, on August 11:

Not the most tasteful thing I ever said, but only a Palinoid could consider that an actual death wish. In fact, I implied that I wanted her to live. I knew that first statement sounded bad, and I had already heard the awful sound of the bus hitting Keith Halloran— so I clarified a few hours later:

Even though I rather harshly criticized Keith Halloran (which I now regret because we are now friends) and even though I absolutely told the truth about Sarah Palin, this second statement didn't help me. It rarely got quoted at all. And then I posted an actual apology the next morning:

I posted a more generic apology later, which Michael Reagan and others found very upsetting, Apparently, apologizing "to anyone who feels they need an apology from me" annoyed some people:

Those were the statements I actually made. I think this was a tempest in a tea party!

This is my version of what happened on August 11-13. A Republican state rep named DJ Bettencourt published a Facebook post griping that "The Left" had not been grieving sufficiently for the late Sen. Ted Stevens, which touched off a spirited political conversation. A Democratic candidate from Rindge, NH named Keith Halloran made a mildly dumb comment which I never saw till later. All political conversations on the web always end up being about either Adolf Hitler and/or Sarah Palin: this time, Halloran was the poor slob who played the Palin card. My first contribution had actually been about Stevens's and Palin's fellow Alaskan Mike Gravel; Bettencourt was upset by how ungracious Gravel had been. I had wasted a minute or two actually digging up Gravel's eulogy which turned out to be not all that ungracious. I returned to the thread to find that the Palinoids were griping about the left's "death wish" for their Sarah. I had no reason to believe that their complaints had any basis in reality; I thought it was just the usual Palinoid psychobabble. (Any anti-Palin commentary of any sort, no matter how mild, is always construed as "hate speech" by the Palinoids.) Like I said, I didn't actually see Halloran's dumb comment till it was too late.

Halloran's dumb comment went viral and the NH Democratic Party opted to throw him under the bus. On the night of August 11th, I commented on"I bet Keith Halloran is wishing he ran in Texas. Texas's legislators get paid a salary and meet about half as often their NH counterparts—but Keith Halloran envies Texas state rep hopeful Debbie Ridley especially because she can get away with saying absolutely anything:" (Ridley's comments were quite horrendous but as far as I know her candidacy is still active.)

I was blasted with a very negative posting on by one party official, and another top party official called me up and advised me to jump in front of that day's bus. I was instructed to resign my office and discontinue my campaign immediately—or else. This person now says they were doing this in my best interests and that the advice was based on their own past experiences— but I believed at the time—and I still believe—that we were all merely overreacting to a bad news cycle. In the heat of the moment, I let myself be hit by the bus, and I drove to Concord to hand over my resignation latter to Speaker Terie Norelli. She was very sad, but she accepted my letter without hesitation, even though she could have refused. Now I wish I had refused to write that letter in the first place. I can take some consolation in the fact that the news story did die out within a few hours. And, I was still on the ballot.

Oh by the way, while all this was going on, a second disgraced politician died in addition to Ted Stevens: former Chicago Congressman Dan Rostenkowski died of lung cancer at age 82 on August 11th. Like Stevens, Rostenkowski fought for our country in time of war— and, like Stevens, Rostenkowski also had a family (four daughters and a wife.) But no one on the right, not even DJ Bettencourt, bothered to eulogize the liberal Rostenkowski.

Here is my resignation letter:

August 12, 2010
7A Faculty Road
Durham, NH 03824

Hon Terie Norelli
Speaker of the House
NH House of Representatives
Concord, NH 03301

Dear Madame Speaker:

I wish to resign from the House of Representatives effective immediately, and to discontinue my re-election campaign for Strafford County District 7. I apologize for thoughtless remarks I made which have brought this House into disrepute. I enjoyed my time in the House and I thank you personally for your support over the years.


Timothy Horrigan

And here is the letter which I sent a week later withdrawing my resignation:

August 19, 2010

7A Faculty Road

Durham, NH 03824

Hon Terie Norelli

Speaker of the House

NH House of Representatives

Concord, NH 03301

Dear Madame Speaker:

I wish to rescind the notice of resignation which I submitted on August 12, 2010. The people of Strafford County District 7 deserve full representation in their legislature, and therefore I would prefer (if possible) to serve the remainder of my current term. I apologize to you and to my constituents for acting in haste.

Thank you for your support over the past two years.


Timothy Horrigan

Years later, in January 2013, now ex-Rep. Bettencourt posted a Twitter tweet which didn't exactly wish for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death— but Bettencourt did express his dismay upon hearing  the news that President Chavez hadn't died.

That's unfortunate "@wmur9: Chavez beats respiratory infection"
— D.J. Bettencourt (@DJBettencourt) January 27, 2013

Right after that, I made the mistake of retweeting the following acerbic remark by California-based blogger Kara Vallow. I am repeating it here ONLY to keep the record straight:

I know I'm going to hate myself for saying this, but I hope Cheney lives long enough to go duck hunting with Scalia again.

— kara vallow (@teenagesleuth) January 31, 2013

The retweet was only up on my Facebook page and Twitter feed for an hour or so on January 30, 2013 before I realized how inappropriate it was for me to be reposting this, in light of my previous fiasco. Unfortunately, the editorial page writer for the Union Leader saw it before it was taken down and he deemed it worthy of an editorial. Jennifer Horn, the newly elected chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, also got wind of this and issued a rather vehement press release.

My party's chair, Raymond Buckley, defended me when a Union Leader reporter called him up for a February 1, 2013 news story, saying, "I hope that Chair Horn will be as eager to call out Republicans for their bad behavior as she does with others. If so,she will be very busy issuing press releases reining in her legislators. Representative Horrigan has appropriately apologized. I can provide Chair Horn the list of Republican legislators who also owe the public an apology for their extremely inappropriate words and behavior."

I hasten to add that I am not in favor of anyone shooting anyone else. And I repeated Ms. Vallow's comment on this web page merely in a effort to keep the record straight. (Yeah, I know I said that twice.) I also hasten to add that we are not close friends, but we go back a long way, and I think she's great and I enjoy reading her commentary. (The connection is that she is the younger sister of one of my old college friends.)

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