Here’s a word of advice for members of the state legislature: Want to make yourself look as bad as possible? Then dodge that TV reporter trying to ask you questions.
Example: Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge), who had accepted, from a registered lobbyist, a pair of pricey tickets for a Falcons playoff game. The game was played the night before the freshman rep was sworn in. Because a state-required disclosure showed he took the tickets before he took the oath of office, I judged this to be a bit of trough-feeding worth highlighting.
Another freshman, Rep. Ronnie Mabra (D-Fayetteville), did the exact same thing. Accepting such gifts is legal, somewhat commonplace and arguably outrageous. I’d never heard of a legislators-elect accepting gifts prior to getting sworn in, however.
I spotted Douglas at the Capitol Monday. As he walked past our camera, I identified myself and asked him to stop and answer a question about the game and the tickets. I told him the topic before I asked questions, giving him a chance to compose himself and formulate an answer. But the camera was rolling.
Douglas chose to skulk off instead. It was not attractive. Undoubtedly our viewers, like my bosses, were amused.
Mabra was more complicated. I found him in his office. We talked off-camera at length. Mabra came up with some amusing reasons he didn’t want to do an on-camera interview: He needed to get approval from “the leadership” first. He had to be someplace else. He needed to shave first.
We waited outside the building, and Mabra conveniently exited. I approached. We rolled. He talked. To his credit, he hung in there until I’d run out of questions.
The guy who should know better is Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen). Unlike Mabra and Douglas, Heath has been around the Capitol a few years. Heath is the Republican who unseated legendary House Speaker Tom Murphy (D-Bremen).
Lori Geary wanted to talk to Heath about some snarky responses he sent to people emailing him with complaints about the cushy job given to a former state senator at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Geary probably asked him politely first, and realized he wasn’t going to submit easily to an on-camera chat.
She saw Heath exit the Senate chamber and went into chase mode. Heath ducked into an office and literally went into hiding. Geary’s video, apparently shot through the door, amusingly shows a thatch of Heath’s hair tucked behind a copier.
It was not attractive, and it got way more attention than it would have if Heath had simply manned-up and answered Geary’s questions like a grownup. Geary’s viewers, and bosses, were undoubtedly tickled by what they saw.
It’s your choice, ladies and gentlemen. Do you want to look ridiculous or not? We’ll do our stories, one way or the other.