Home > Democrats, Memphis, Steve Cohen, U.S. House, Willie Herenton > Herenton Admits He’s Not Fit to Be Dog Catcher

Herenton Admits He’s Not Fit to Be Dog Catcher

It’s not every day that a candidate for major office comes right out and says that they aren’t fit to be dog catcher, but that’s exactly what former Mayor Willie Herenton did at his free-for-all press conference yesterday.

At one point, after [WREG’s Mike] Matthews had pressed Herenton hard, and properly so, on his cavalier attitude toward scandals in his last mayoral term at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center — MSARC — and at the Memphis Animal Shelter, Herenton made a peculiarly tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of having “dropped the ball” because “I just want to make you happy.”

Herenton played that one for laughs, and it was almost possible to forget how contemptuous he had been in stating his indifference to what had been genuinely tragic circumstances at both MSARC and the Animal Shelter.

Who gives a damn about those peripheral issues?” Herenton had thundered. “I say it’s trivial. I never made one visit. I didn’t even know where MSARC was located until you guys covered it.” He went so far as to condemn his mayoral successor, A C Wharton, whom earlier he had called a “disaster,” for turning up at the Animal Shelter to actually see what was going on there.

For a man who would go on to boast that he had been “the best mayor Memphis ever had,” that was rather an odd way to go about defining the quality of his stewardship.

[Jackson Baker]

As Maya Angelou famously said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

Herenton also said he did not “give a damn” about the problems that emerged during investigations involving animal abuse at the Memphis Animal Shelter and poor supervision at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center that led to delays in treatment for victims. He called them “peripheral issues” that represented an “infinitesimal” portion of the city he said he ran more successfully than any mayor in the city’s history.

Who gives a damn what happened in MSARC and the dog shelter?” Herenton said, adding that he did not know where MSARC was located and had never been to the animal shelter.

[Commercial Appeal]

I wonder who Emily’s List will endorse this time around, eh?

It’s difficult to imagine a more reprehensible statement coming out of the mouth of a former city executive, but I suppose he deserves some applause for his candor. After all, how often do you actually hear a politician come right out and confirm what everyone has already long suspected? It’s an event on the order of Pat Buchanan casually remarking to Rachel Maddow, “Yeah, I never really liked blacks or Jews all that much in the first place.”

On the basis of their comparatively small cost when weighed against the whole of the city budget, Herenton claims that MSARC and the Animal Shelter “ain’t important in the whole scheme of things.” By that measure, neither is his pension from the city.

It might be instructive to recall, for a moment, what originally prompted these statements.

Herenton says this isn’t an issue of debates only under his terms. “I don’t know the questions you’ll ask,” he said. He did admit, he had no idea what questions either Brewer or Sanford would askl, but says “they would get involved with a lot of trivialities.”

Herenton says he might let local reporters ask anything they want of him at a news conference in a few weeks, to end all this talk about, using his words, “trivialities.” “They want to talk to me about MSARC, (the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center) or the dog pound situation.

There have been investigations into both the animal shelter and the rape crisis center, but the former Mayor says the issues don’t make sense in a congressional campaign.

[Mike Matthews]

Herenton was speaking to reporters, not voters, when he declared his nonchalance regarding the two scandals, and this is exactly where his media strategy begins to fall apart. Absent the fundraising and campaign operation needed to make his appeal directly to the voters, Herenton is left to rely on the media to get his message out —  the same media whose questions he finds irrelevant. The result is a mess of his own making, a soiling of his own nest. He’s painted himself into a corner and it’s difficult to see any way out for him.

Not to quarrel with Steve Ross, but this isn’t an example of Herenton being crazy like a fox. This is just plain crazy. Herenton has outsmarted no one but himself. He never would have sent out campaign literature declaring that he doesn’t give a damn about MSARC or the Animal Shelter. However, by placing his candidacy at the mercy of an antagonistic media determined to ask pointed questions about the scandals that occurred under his watch, he has let slip his true feelings without any campaign operation to correct the damage.

Thankfully, we now have a mayor who actually does give a damn about stray animals and victims of sexual assault.

During a previously scheduled meeting Thursday with The Commercial Appeal’s editorial board, Wharton was asked about Herenton’s comments. He said: “It does not serve the city well for me to even attempt to respond to that kind of volley.”

But Wharton said he wanted the city to understand perfectly clear that he believes the rape crisis center and the animal shelter play a “pivotal role” for the city.

“Government is supposed to be an embodiment of the values that a society wants,” Wharton said. “A value of a much higher order is the respect for a woman’s personhood and it is government’s paramount obligation to make sure in every way possible the powers of the government are used to insure the integrity of one’s personhood.

“And if you know anything about rape victims, you know they are not white women from out east somewhere who got touched. They are little black girls and it’s mama’s boyfriend or the stepdaddy having sex with them and, ‘I dare you to tell because I’m gonna put your momma out if you do.'”

[Commercial Appeal]

The contrast between the two mayors could not be more stark. Herenton really stepped in it this time.

Watch the entire 95 minute press conference here.

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  1. Joanaroo
    June 15, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    This guy is a real asshole. So much for women and animal lovers voting for him unless they’re damn stupid! I hope the next time he walks down a Memphis street, a hungry pit bull follows him, looks at the front of his pants and shows him some teeth!

  2. Law Lady
    August 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    WOW. At some point, you’d think we’d all stop being surprised by his jackassery. But he keeps proving that there’s no bottom to stupid. It goes all the way down.

    Just found your blog, btw. Great reading. Keep up the good work!

    • August 5, 2010 at 5:46 am

      Thank you very much! I’ve been a bit slow in posting lately, but things should pick up over time. Life is very busy for me right now.

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