It’s been several days since the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell’s thesis from 20 years ago, and polls have shown that the story had little or no effect on the race. So this morning, the Post offers a front page story on… whether McDonnell opposed the reappointment of Circuit Court Judge Verbena Askew in 2003 out of homophobia.
Now, there are a couple of pretty darn relevant facts strewn hither and yon in the 26-paragraph story:
A sexual harassment complaint filed by another court employee against Verbena Askew had been previously settled with $64,000 in taxpayer funds by the City of Hampton. When Askew came up for reappointment to the bench, she did not disclose on her judicial questionnaire that she had been a party to a civil proceeding. A Virginia Employment Commission hearing officer found that Brenda Collins, who filed the sexual harassment complaint against Askew, was forced to resign her job as a court officer because of retaliation by Askew.
McDonnell said at the time of the hearing, “Homosexuality is not an issue with regard to the qualifications of a judge… I imagine we have gay judges on the bench now. That’s not a material inquiry.”
When voting against Askew’s reappointment, he gave four specific reasons for his no vote on Askew. They included:
1) Askew had given confidential documents relating to the settlement to a local media outlet, contrary to the applicable confidentially agreement.
2) An objective, anonymous survey of the Newport News Bar Association found 45 percent of respondents indicated her rating was unsatisfactory and 47 percent of respondents found her judicial demeanor unsatisfactory.
3) The settlement amount of $64,000 was far more than a typical “nuisance claim,” and Collins had received positive performance reviews.
4) There was a credible and documented pattern of retaliation against Collins by Askew after Collins filed a formal written complaint against Askew in August of 1999. McDonnell deemed the conduct unacceptable for a Circuit Court judge towards an employee.
McDonnell also noted that only 7 months earlier the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates — a Republican — was removed from his leadership position after revelations of a sexual harassment claim and settlement became public, and concluded that a similar standard should be applied to judges.
None of these facts are in dispute; they were all widely reported in venues like the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Associated Press, the Virginian Pilot. Some of these rather relevant details made it past the Post’s editors; some did not.
The Post did find room to note that when Terry Scanlon, a reporter for the Newport News Daily Press asked McDonnell in 2003 whether or not he himself had ever violated Virginia’s “crimes against nature” statute (it prohibits oral and anal sex), McDonnell replied, “not that I can recall.”
Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk. Yes, let’s all have a big laugh about Bob McDonnell’s reticence to get into detail about his bedroom acrobatics with Mrs. McDonnell.
Meanwhile, the northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. have the second-highest congestion rate in the nation, and Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds won’t say what his transportation plan is.
Meanwhile, 525 of Virginia’s schools, or 28 percent of the statewide total, failed to make adequate progress under federal education law last year, and Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds offers a two-page education plan.
Meanwhile, the state is breaking out the party hats that the unemployment rate is only the second-highest it’s been in 16 years, and Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds had nothing on his campaign web site about the economy and jobs until June.
But hey, I’m sure Creigh Deeds is willing to tell a reporter whether or not he’s ever had anal or oral sexual contact, so that will earn him the Post’s endorsement this fall.