Video: A Long-Shot Senate Candidate Heroically Berates a Reporter for Writing “Blah Blah Blah” in His Notebook

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 2 2014 7:03 PM

Video: A Long-Shot Senate Candidate Heroically Berates a Reporter for Writing “Blah Blah Blah” in His Notebook

The Willamette Week is a left-leaning (is there any other kind?) alternative paper in Portland, Ore. Mark Callahan is a first-time candidate for U.S. Senate who sees fit to mention, in his online profile, that he was "newspaper carrier of the year" in Eugene in 1994. You'd think these two forces would find plenty to agree on, but when Callahan showed up for a panel interview of Senate candidates, he found himself sniping at the paper for being snarky and asking the most substantive questions of the candidates generally given the better chance of winning the primary.

It eventually devolved into this.

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As Harry Esteve reports, Callahan snort-laughed after another long-shot candidate, Joe Rae Perkins, gave an answer that the journalists in the room did not pay attention to. Nigel Jaquiss, a reporter for the paper who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, was blowing Perkins off.

"You wanna talk about disrespect?" he said. "I see what you're writing down in your notepad. You just wrote down 'blah blah blah blah' for everything Joe Rae said. Joe Rae is a respectable woman. Why are you not respecting her?"

The paper's editor tried to move on and ask a question of Rep. Jason Conger, who eventually won the endorsement. But Callahan persisted, and got a question about climate change. He called it a myth. 

"Where are you on the Easter Bunny?" asked Jaquiss.

You can see what happened next, but the important thing is that a candidate who might have otherwise remained in obscurity became a Friday afternoon celebrity. And a rorshach test—conservatives see the liberal media attacking a decent guy, while the press sees a candidate behaving like a jerk. Jaquiss told the New York Daily News that he'd found Perkins' answer "repetitive" and Callahan was bristling at the lack of equal time for his answers.

Lucky for us, the whole video is online, and it basically backs up the paper. You can seen (about halfway in) that Callahan kept starting arguments about the lack of questions for him (he's raised $21,229 for a statewide race) and how the interview became the "Monica and Jason" show—i.e., about the two candidates ahead in polling.

And you can hear the Perkins answer. Perkins, who didn't appear in person, got a question about her "specific ideas" for "how you would trim the federal government." Her answer really is gibberish, though not "blah blah"-worthy.

"We've got to get back to states' rights," she said. She wanted to repeal Obamacare, take waste out of Medicaid, and "eliminate the U.S. parks department and the BLM."

The interview was being taped (obviously), so it wasn't like Jaquiss was going to miss what she said if he didn't take down detailed notes. Callahan was rebelling against a journalist for failing to take a candidate seriously when he thought she was incoherent. But that's no crime, and Jaquiss is hardly the first reporter to hear BS from a subject and note that it was BS. 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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