It’s a case of the candidate, the newspaper, and the blah, blah, blah.
A really, really longshot Republican Senate candidate in Oregon has parlayed his confrontation with Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper into appearances on Fox News, where he has denounced the paper for enforcing a “totalitarian regime.”
The incident with the newspaper occurred late last month. Willamette Week determines its political endorsements a little differently than other newspapers around the country. Instead of interviewing candidates individually, the paper brings candidates for each particular office in as a group to talk to its editors and reporters. On April 21, Mark Callahan — a guy who has previously run for office as a Democrat and Pacific Green Party member, who has run for President, who now bills himself as “cut from the same cloth” as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and who has raised just $21,000 for his campaign — joined a group of four other Republicans competing in the state’s Senate primary for an endorsement interview with the newspaper. The whole thing stretched an hour and a half, but Callahan didn’t make it to the end. He got in a fight with the Willamette Week’s staff and was asked to leave.
“You want to talk about disrespect,” Callahan said, a little over an hour into the interview, after spotting reporter Nigel Jaquiss scribbling in a notebook while another candidate, Joe Rae Perkins, gave an answer via a speakerphone. “I see what you’re writing down there. You just wrote down ‘blah blah blah blah blah’ for everything that Jo Rae said. Jo Rae is a respectable woman. Why are you not respecting her by writing ‘blah blah blah blah blah’ on your notepad?”
No one tried to deny that Jaquiss had in fact written “blah blah blah” in his notebook. The moderator tried to move things along by asking Callahan whether he believed climate change was a myth or reality.
“It’s a myth,” Callahan said.
Jaquiss then chimed in.
“Where are you on the Easter Bunny?” Jaquiss asked.
“Are these really the questions that I was called here to answer?” Callahan responded “I called you out for putting ‘blah blah blah blah blah’ on your notepad and now you’re asking me questions like this? Really? Really, are we talking about this now?”
Watch (the confrontation happens at 1:06)
There was more back and forth — Callahan called the newspapers’ staff “thin-skinned liberals” — before he was shown the door. Video of the incident got attention late last week, and then Sunday morning, Callahan got a few minutes on Fox News to tell his tale of woe. Callahan accused the paper of being “very controlling” and “basically trying to manhandle us Republicans.”
“Honestly, we’ve been to other candidate forums, the five of us, all around the state,” Callahan told “Fox & Friends” host Tucker Carlson. “And we’ve always gotten equal time to answer questions. But it just didn’t seem like they were actually doing that this time. And apparently I stepped out of their control norm or their totalitarian regime that they were controlling in the room there. And I guess it kind of irked them.”
Willamette Week, which has dubbed this incident “BlahBlahBlahGate,” explicitly tells candidates they won’t be getting equal time during endorsement interviews. Mark Zusman, the editor of the paper, told TPM on Monday that he hasn’t been shy in the past about throwing people out of endorsement interviews, including Democrats. Zusman said that Callahan wasn’t a serious candidate, and that he had gotten upset after Zusman had pressed him early in the interview. Zusman admitted that his reporter’s question about the Easter Bunny hadn’t been respectful, but he said Callahan had gotten to the point where he was wasting the paper’s time.
“He’s absolutely correct that we weren’t giving him equal time,” Zusman said. “This race is one of the more intriguing in Oregon because you’ve got two very interesting and well-funded candidates in Monica Wehby and Jason Conger, who are seeking to run against [incumbent Sen.] Jeff Merkeley [D-OR]. … So really our focus was trying to get at which of these two do we think ought to get our endorsement.”
Willamette Week ultimately endorsed Conger in the May 20 primary.
Callahan made another appearance Monday afternoon on Fox’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”