KINGSBURY — It was game day for Rep. Elise Stefanik Friday at the Kingsbury fire house.
Dressed in a bright pink jacket and smiling broadly, Rep. Stefanik took center stage for approximately two hours and fielded more than 60 questions from friends and foes alike. But I suspect few in attendance learned anything new.
I know I didn’t.
This is the playing field for political football, and proceedings such as this are about supporters lobbing up softball questions and critics trying to pin her down for an embarrassing sound bite than can be circulated on the Internet while the congresswoman offers up a stream of pronouncements that celebrates the American way of life and avoids controversy.
Make no mistake about it, this meeting had little to do with the 35-year-old woman at the front of the room. It was the long shadow of Donald Trump that had the approximately 150 people there and on the edge of their seats.
With almost as many policemen in attendance at the fire hall as firemen, the cheers and jeers were consistently intermingled when Rep. Stefanik addressed where she stood on the president and impeachment. It often led to heated exchanges between the two sides.
She said she was against impeachment.
She said the president’s actions on the Ukraine phone call did not rise to an impeachable offense.
She insisted Rep. Adam Schiff was running rampant.
Rep. Stefanik also made the case she did not support the administration’s direction on the environment, believes this week’s decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria was wrong and that spending is out of control in Washington, while contending she continues to be one of the most bipartisan members of Congress.
Considering the rampant polarization of the parties these days, it probably doesn’t take much to gain that distinction.
I was there for a different reason.
I was hoping that Rep. Stefanik would address the escalating tensions surrounding the continuing unsavory behavior at the Glens Falls rallies.
I was hoping she would express concern for the members of the press.
I was hoping she would express regret for a staff member thanking a supporter who had threatened this newspaper and then urged him to attend the town hall.
I was disappointed.
“The press is incredibly important,” she said 17 minutes into the town hall before explaining how her staff diligently fact checks their stories for accuracy. What is ironic is that many of her past campaign ads do not pass the fact-check test.
Three different times she asserted the value of a free press.
She also condemned violence of any kind several times.
Obviously, both should be bedrock values of all Americans. Unfortunately, they apparently need to be reinforced. That’s where we are these days.
Rep. Stefanik never addressed why her staff thanked a man who had threatened the newspaper.
Before the town hall, she confirmed that her staff had invited the man. During the town hall, the man asked her a question about red flag laws. The irony seemed to be lost on her that the man who had threatened this newspaper was asking her a question about gun control.
She never offered up any concern for the men and women with families who work at The Post-Star.
She never took me up on my offer to address the non-journalists in our building who were nervous about the threat.
She never bothered to respond to my email condemning the actions of her staff.
This is the political big leagues where you never admit errors because winning is what matters and right and wrong always take a backseat.
Ken Tingley is editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at email@example.com. His blog “The Front Page” discusses issues about newspapers and journalism. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.