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Profile: Richard Becker
Richard Becker was a participant or observer in the following events:
Jay Townsend. [Source: Gawker (.com)]A campaign spokesman for Representative Nan Hayworth (R-NY) advocates “hurl[ing] acid” at female Democratic senators. Jay Townsend, the spokesman for Hayworth, makes the statement during a discussion on a Facebook page entitled “NY19 US House of Representatives Discussion Center.” The page, according to its owner, encourages “civil multi-partisan discussion about issues impacting citizens of New York’s US House District represented by Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth.” The particular thread is about falling gas prices, and contains comments from some posters critical of Hayworth. In response to one poster, Tom Conroy, Townsend writes the following: “Listen to Tom. What a little bee he has in his bonnet. Buzz Buzz. My question today… when is Tommy boy going to weigh in on all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector.” Townsend then links to an article illustrated with a photograph of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). The page moderator responds: “[A]s an official and paid employee of the Hayworth Re-Election Campaign, please refrain from calling our members names. If you keep that up, I will have to remove you from the page. Also, I can’t believe Representative Hayworth would want you posting such un-referenced nonsense to this page. Does she know you are doing this or have you gone rogue?” Townsend responds by accusing the other posters of name-calling, and then says (referencing Memorial Day), “In the interest of this sacred holiday I am celebrating the sacrifce [sic] made so that might might [sic] have the freedom to express our views.”
Opponent Objects to 'Acid Hurling' Comment - One of Hayworth’s Democratic challengers, Richard Becker, objects to Townsend’s comment via a post in the New York Observer by Becker’s own spokesman, Barry Caro. On the Observer’s “Politicker” blog, Caro writes: “I’d be fired—immediately and with cause—if I said stuff like this. Which begs the question: why is Jay Townsend still Nan Hayworth’s spokesman?” Caro also addresses other other comments made by Townsend in the Facebook discussion: “Does she agree that ‘bin Laden is dead in spite of Obama?’ Does she agree that we should ‘hurl some acid’ at politicians her campaign disagrees with? These comments are simply unprofessional and should never cross the lips of a congressional spokesman.… This isn’t some obscure supporter or no-name right wing provocateur, and we’re not playing ‘six degrees of condemnation.’ This is Nan Hayworth’s official campaign spokesman saying some truly disturbing things on her behalf. The people of this district deserve to know whether Nan thinks what her spokesman is saying is OK—and if not, what she’s going to do about it.” Hayworth’s office refuses to comment on Townsend’s comments, or Caro’s rejoinder. [Talking Points Memo, 5/31/2012; Rich Becker for Congress, 5/31/2012; Wonkette, 5/31/2012; Times Herald-Record (Middletown NY), 6/3/2012]
Acid Attacks Common in Islamic Fundamentalist societies - Journalist Eric Dolan notes that acid attacks “against women who violate social traditions” are frequently used by Islamic fundamentalists “in Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries.” That fact apparently prompts some Facebook posters to ask Townsend if he believes he lives in Afghanistan, or if he wants to impose a Taliban-like fundamentalism in America. [Raw Story, 5/31/2012; Talking Points Memo, 5/31/2012]
Comments Removed - Townsend later removes the comments. On his Web site, he describes himself as an “adept wordsmith” who has worked on over 300 campaigns in 25 states. In 2010, he ran for the US Senate against Charles Schumer (D-NY), a race he lost by 18 points. [ABC News, 6/1/2012] Huffington Post columnist Melissa Jeltsen describes the comments as a “vicious… taunting… online rant.” She observes: “In an ironic twist, Townsend also maintains a Facebook page called ‘How to Run for Public Office’ offering free ‘campaign and communications tips.’ It’s safe to say he could use a refresher.” [Huffington Post, 5/31/2012]
Opponent Advises Representative to Fire Official - Becker later issues a statement advising Hayworth to fire Townsend. He will note that Townsend may have violated Federal law by issuing a threat to “assault, kidnap, or murder, a United States official… with intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with such official.” Case law holds that violating this law does not require that an actual intent to carry out such a threat “be present.” Becker will continue: “Does Nan Hayworth want Jay Townsend to be the public face of her campaign? Because to me, this is clear cut: Jay’s rhetoric is indefensible. It’s just mind boggling that a Congressional spokesman would use this kind of incendiary and downright offensive language and equally shocking that his boss would not instantly fire him for doing so. The specific choice of words here is also particularly sickening. Acid attacks on women have a disturbing and disgusting history—they’re used almost exclusively to silence and punish women across the globe who’ve bravely spoken out on behalf of their human rights.… With every minute ‘No Comment’ Nan refuses to take a stand, she takes on responsibility for Jay’s hateful and hurtful remarks.… Refusing to take a stand now and fire Townsend would permanently mark Nan as unfit to hold public office and unworthy of the public’s trust.… Threats to physically harm elected officials for disagreeing with you are specifically banned by federal law for a very good reason; they’re just never acceptable, and are particularly corrosive in a democracy. The fact that these comments are likely illegal only highlights how far out of bounds they were—and how absurd it is that Jay Townsend is, as of this moment, still Nan Hayworth’s official spokesman. Words have power, words this symbolic especially so. Last January, the US Congress saw some of the ugly and real—even if unintended—consequences of calls for political violence [referring to the assassination attempt against Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona]. I would have hoped Nan Hayworth learned the same lessons from that tragedy that the rest of us did.” [NY Alt News, 6/1/2012]
Attempt to Shift Blame onto Opponent - The campaign will attempt to shift the blame for the controversy onto Becker (see June 1, 2012), but will soon fire Townsend (see June 4, 2012).
The campaign of Representative Nan Hayworth (R-NY) refuses to apologize for recent comments by campaign communications director Jay Townsend, who advised readers to “hurl some acid at female Democratic senators” who disagree with Hayworth’s views (see May 27-31, 2012). Hayworth campaign manager Bruce Harvie blames Hayworth’s opponent, Richard Becker (D-NY), for “manufactur[ing]” a “controversy” about Townsend’s comments. Harvie writes: “This is a manufactured controversy by a campaign operation that has, for months, hurled offensive rhetoric and imagery at Nan Hayworth on various Facebook pages, including the one mentioned today. It is a matter of public record that the moderator of the page in question, while purporting to represent an objective point of view, is on the payroll of the Becker campaign. And in behalf of the Becker campaign, the moderator has tolerated extremely hostile and explicit comments against Dr. Hayworth. Only now have the media chosen to pay attention to this particular battlefield in the war against a woman who has the temerity to be a Republican member of Congress.” Harvie then distances the campaign from Townsend’s remarks, but continues to blame Hayworth’s opponent, and also the media, for the controversy, writing: “The comment receiving the attention was not made on behalf of the congresswoman or her campaign and was clearly not meant to be taken literally.… [T]he Becker campaign is doing all it can to distract attention from the real issue.… It’s not too much to insist that the media responsibly analyze context and perspective rather than simply broadcast hysterical and irresponsible attacks from a campaign that is purely seeking to score political points against a representative who has a consistently strong and positive record as an advocate for every citizen she serves.”
Popular Right-Wing Blog Denounces Hayworth - The influential blog RedState writes that the Hayworth campaign’s response to the controversy, in addition to Hayworth’s vote in favor of “the ‘right’ to kill unborn children who have the temerity to be the wrong gender,” has “lost NY-19 for us.” RedState notes the difficulty of defending such an incendiary statement as Townsend’s, stating: “If she was trying to fly under the radar and cruise to re-election, she can forget about that now. As I wrote on her Facebook page, I’d rather NY-19 was held by a D, that way I wouldn’t feel betrayed. She rode the tea party wave to election in 2010, but she’s just another New York RINO [Republican in name only]. I will not miss her.”
Becker Condemns Remarks and Hayworth's Response - Becker releases a statement saying: “This is a very simple issue: It is emphatically not ok for a Congressional spokesman to say we should ‘hurl some acid at those female democratic senators’ his boss disagrees with. That kind of unprofessional and hateful language should never be used by our political representatives and is unworthy of our great state and the Hudson Valley. Period. It’s unfortunate that Nan Hayworth apparently disagrees.… There’s a reason so many people were disgusted by such a flippant reference to a barbaric practice that is almost exclusively used to silence courageous women. This is offensive language, pure and simple, and Nan Hayworth should condemn it and fire her spokesman for using it. That she’s defending him instead is extremely depressing and absolutely unbelievable.” [Politicker, 6/1/2012]
Criticism Scrubbed from Hayworth Facebook Page - Since Townsend’s comment appeared on Facebook, the campaign has removed hundreds of posts on Hayworth’s Facebook campaign page, mostly posts criticizing Hayworth and Townsend over the acid-hurling comment. Hayworth’s readers have noticed, with one posting: “If Nan is so blameless why is she running away from comments made by her own constituents and wiping out the posts of concerned citizens? Innocent people don’t run away and hide. If you have nothing to be ashamed of Ms. Hayworth why are you scrubbing your FB pages?” Another writes: “It says a lot that you only keep comments from the ones who praise you. Says a lot about character.” [Huffington Post, 6/3/2012]
Jay Townsend, the campaign communications director for Representative Nan Hayworth (R-NY), resigns after weathering a week of controversy over his Facebook recommendation that his readers should “hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector” (see May 27-31, 2012). Four days before his resignation, Hayworth’s campaign refused to apologize, and instead blamed Hayworth’s Democratic opponent Richard Becker for “manufactur[ing a] controversy” (see June 1, 2012). Two days ago, Townsend wrote an apology (see June 3, 2012), which liberal columnist Greg Mitchell calls “the usual no-apology apology [that claimed] his words were simply taken the wrong way.” Following Townend’s resignation, Hayworth issues a brief statement, saying: “Jay Townsend has offered, and I have accepted, his resignation from his position with my campaign. Now let’s return to talking about issues that really matter to families: job creation, spending restraint, and economic development.” Becker takes credit for the resignation, saying: “The timing of this announcement, coming one hour after we completed a press conference outside of Hayworth’s office calling on her to take exactly this step, was not coincidental. Our campaign broke this story, and for five days we’ve been leading the charge to hold Mr. Townsend and Rep. Hayworth accountable for the horrendous comments made on her behalf. This kind of language is unbecoming of a Congressional spokesman and unworthy of the Hudson Valley, and we’re pleased Nan Hayworth [belatedly] realized what most of us saw last week.” [Huffington Post, 6/3/2012; Politico, 6/4/2012; Nation, 6/5/2012] Hayworth’s campaign spokesperson Tim Murtough says of Townsend’s comments: “Certain rhetoric is not acceptable. [Hayworth] was not very pleased about what he had said.” [YNN, 6/4/2012] Mitchell expects Townsend to become a successful speaker on the right-wing circuit, noting that one of Townsend’s blog posts is entitled “Are Middle-Class Whites Fleeing Obama’s Plantation?” [Nation, 6/5/2012]
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