Are too many Floyd Countians rude and untruthful in public meetings?

The anger in public comment periods have turned vile and filled with false statements, threats and personal insults

Insults from those who flaunt rules or disagree on even minor things have become a fact of life nationwide and in Floyd County. We see them boo, shout insults and make snide, abusive, and often libelous comments toward others and our elected officials. As Floyd Press editor Abby Whitt reported in this week’s edition of the paper, the behavior and rudeness dominated the public comment portion of the latest meeting of the Floyd County School Board.

I was on another assignment that night, but have talked with Editor Whitt and others at the meting. They say the object of protests, this time, concerned the mask mandates ordered by Virginia Gov Ralph Northam and enforced in the county’s public schools. Kalinda Bechtold, a candidate in the upcoming election for the Indian Valley representative on the Board of Supervisors, claimed — erroneously — that mask mandates are unconstitutional. Federal and state courts around the country have struck down legal challenges that claim mandates violate the Constitution.

She made a public display of refusing to wear a mask at the meeting and was escorted out by a county deputy at the request of the school board chairman. Others followed her out, leaving their masks behind, and questioned the deputy’s right to escort Bechtold from the meeting. Then asked when they would be coming for their guns, another false wild extremist claim that is not based on any laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly or Congress.

Some who attended the meeting expressed concern about the tactics of Jeff Dowd, who insulted each member of the board with undocumented claims about how county residents or even their own relatives “has to say” about them.

The rude, unruly comments by public commenters at the school board meetings brought outright concern from Supervisors chairman Joe Turman Tuesday at their board meeting. Turman expressed disgust over what he witnessed at the school board meeting and said it was a poor reflection on such residents of the county.

“I’d better stop talking about this,” Turman said. His anger was obvious.

He had good reason to be angry. Some of the same people who disrupted the school board meeting have been in the audience at the Supervisors’ meeting. They often talk among themselves, loudly, during the meetings, disrupting the normal flow of business, and tell the same lies about non-existent violations of the Constitution.

As a newspaperman who has covered meetings of governmental organizations for more than half a century, I have watched the growth of public rudeness grow, particularly in the last several years.

Not that long ago, I witnessed, and reported when former Floyd County GOP chairman Bob Smith interrupted a meeting by declaring “the Supreme Court has outlawed prayer in schools,” which had not happened. In fact, the Court had reaffirmed prayer instead of approving a lawsuit that sought to ban it.

When I questioned Smith about the claim, he said, “oh, I heard it on the radio.” Turned out to be a claim from Rush Limbaugh, who often told such lies on his show before he died.

Last month, Smith used a slur about gays in a tirade against state Department of Education regulations to provide protection of transgender students in public schools.

In Floyd County, after the election of Barack Obama, as the first president of color in this nation, we saw a rise in rudeness from the local Tea Party, which often produced insulting photos of then-president Obama. The Tea Party capitalized the rise of racism after Obama’s election.

I also covered and reported on the shift toward rudeness that began in Congress in the 1990s. While covering Congress in Washington, I saw a new Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, use insults and misinformation after his party took control of the House in 1994. In a show of typical hypocrisy, Gingrich often took the floor in the House to sling insults about the affair of then-president Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky while the Speaker was banging a House staff member Callista Bisek behind his wife’s back in a six-year affair.

Gingrich later divorced his wife and married Bisek, who was later named ambassador to the Vatican by thrice-married and admitted adulterer Donald Trump during his scandal-ridden single term as president. Many Catholics decried her appointment a travesty because an immoral president appointed a self-confessed adulteress as ambassador to the head of a religion that considers such behavior a sin. Gingrich had dumped a previous wife to marry another mistress.

Gingrich finally resigned from the Speaker’s role and left Congress under an ethics investigation, as reported by The Washington Post and other media:

Speaker Newt Gingrich has completed payment of a $300,000 penalty imposed for violations of House rules, the ethics committee said Wednesday.

Gingrich made the final payment of $150,000, the committee said, and “has now satisfied in full” the obligation imposed in January 1997.

The outgoing speaker originally arranged a loan from ex-Sen. Bob Dole to help with the payments, but decided instead to handle the penalty from personal funds.

Gingrich, who also was reprimanded by the House two years ago, admitted he misled the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and should have sought better legal advice before using tax-exempt organizations to advance his political goals,

–The Washington Post

Playing around sexually is not limited to Democrats. Former GOP Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois had to admit fathering a child with another woman while married. So did Indiana Republican Dan Burton.

And Clinton was not the only President to dally with interns. President John F. Kennedy took the virginity of the 19-year-old intern Mimi Alford in the bed he shared with First Lady Jackie in the White House.

It is sad to see residents of Floyd County sink to the levels of rudeness and lies that now dominate our national discourse and government. The disgusting display at the school board meeting hurts our students and our county. Recent surveys show an increasing number of students trust their teachers more than their parents. “Once children start school, teachers have more influence than parents on their intellectual and social developments,” reports The Knowledge Bank.

Sad. Very sad.

·Edited after initial publication with new information

4 thoughts on “Are too many Floyd Countians rude and untruthful in public meetings?”

    • Of course. Both parties have troublemakers. In the cases reported here, however, the instigators were members of the party of the elephant, but I still wrote about the shabby actions of two questionable Democratic presidents — Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy — who were guilty of massive sexual abuse, along with prime examples from the party of the elephant, like Henry Hyde, Donald Trump, et al.

      Reply
  1. Which meeting were you attending? Oh, that’s right, you weren’t there!! I was and aside from one speaker, EVERY other speaker was respectful and NOT rude. Why don’t you try reporting the actual facts for once – like Kalinda Bechtold is running for the Board of Supervisors and not the School Board AND she had her mask on the entire time as we ALL did until she finished her comment. She and the others only took them off after to make the point that mask mandates without allowing exemptions is TYRANNY!!!

    Funny how you didn’t report the real reason we were all there – in support of a parent whose 7 yr old daughter had a mask TIED ON HER FACE at Check Elementary!!!! It was so tight she couldn’t even get a drink of water and it caused a sore on her ear!! When the mother told a school administrator that her children needed an exemption, she was told there were no exemptions period. And when the mother said her children would be coming to school without masks anyway, she was told that Social Services would be called on her! So tell me again, who is being rude and abusive??!

    You need to calm yourself down and maybe do a little little self examination about your motives for writing. And stop hiding behind your blog. If this is what you really feel, write an article for both the Floyd Press and the Floyd Beacon. The Beacon, by the way, is about truth and not editorializing. That’s what journalism used to be about – facts. When did you lose your way?

    Reply
    • As the article notes, I was on another assignment that evening, but talked with the Press editor who covered the board meeting and several others who were there. None cited the claims of mask treatments of a student at Check Elementary as a reason for attending. My article also reported on, similar behavior in the public comments portion of Supervisor meetings, along with members of the audience who talk loudly while the board is trying to conduct business. I have covered the Supervisors and many public meetings for the Press for the past 17+ years and have noticed an increase in nasty comments, insults and rudeness. I do not write opinion articles for the Floyd Press or any other Lee Enterprises newspaper where my articles appear. Blue Ridge Muse is a place where I do, occasionally, write opinion columns and I also provide columns to three non-partisan national media websites. At this point in my life as a career newspaperman, I frankly don’t have time to do more, nor do I feel any need to write for anyone else. Thank you for your comments and thoughts.

      Reply

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