Wasilla City Councilman, Republican State House candidate (and former candidate for Alaska Lt. Governor in 2010), Mark Ewing keeps talking. And then trying to untalk. And then talking again. And it's just not good.
In a recent debate at the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce candidates forum, Ewing squared off with his Republican primary opponent. All started predictably with both candidates in favor of a controversial coal mine, a controversial copper mine, and another boondoggle bridge to almost nowhere.
But soon Mr. Ewing distinguished himself in the Rock 'em Sock 'em robot battle of conservative Mat-Su Valley Republicans. After talking about cutting the operating budget, he cited education as one of the problems.
"We are spending millions and millions of dollars educating children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move and, I'm sorry, but you've got to say, 'no' somewhere. We need to educate our children, but there are certain individuals that are just not going to benefit from an education."
It's worth remembering that another Wasilla Republican whom you may have heard of happens to have a special needs child in the district. Trigg Palin is not in a wheelchair, so we don't know for certain if he is one of those whom Mr. Ewing feels isn't worth educating.
After his comment in the debate was published in The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, he received a lot of email. He doubled down on a local right wing radio show stating:
"Actually, you know, that was a response that isn't politically correct. But I'm going to use a quote from Jack Nicholson and that is, 'most people can't handle the truth.'"
That didn't work.
Then he went on to insinuate in Facebook posts (now deleted) that he'd been misquoted by The Frontiersman, prompting the paper to strike back with a scathing editorial entitled "Can You Handle the Truth?"
"Ewing, in comments he made Friday on talk radio, would have you believe that what he said was that the children 'can't even figure out how to make their wheelchair work.' Truth is, he did not say that. The audio of the debate proves our reporting was correct and Ewing is now backpedaling, trying to rewrite the record. How his revision makes the quote any better we will leave to Ewing to explain."
A comment on the op-ed, appearing to be from Ewing, stated that he'd "checked the Wasilla Chamber website and realized the words in the paper were mine and I should have made that point clear and apologized to the Frontiersman... and also to the public. It was a poor decision on my part to not remember what I said used to describe children with special needs. I know now that what I meant to say and what I said were completely different and after reading comments from a broad parental base that all children can learn regardless of their handicap I am not against teaching special needs children and clearly not trying to hurt any students or parents that have a child in that situation. This election is not worth my creditably or using a bone headed remarks that may hurt others..." (sic)
If he has come out of this with even some of his "creditably" intact, it would still seem that this mega-gaffe and backpedaling fits a continuing pattern of "gaffe and erase."
Since his "wheelchair moment," we've obtained screen captures of other tidbits from Mr. Ewing's Facebook wall that have since been removed.
He not only took a shot at the physically and/or developmentally disabled, but also undocumented immigrants, suggesting we "seal the border with our troops, and shoot to kill."
This one was copied and pasted from a viral right-wing email, debunked by Snopes as having been written by Jeff Foxworthy. The last item on the list, 11) "You find this offensive, or racist and you don't forward it... You may be a Muslim," was left off. There's no bigotry like plagiarized bigotry.
And finally, he also had some strong words for the Alaska Republican Party, its current Chair Randy Ruedrich, and his opponent in the primary, fellow Wasilla conservative Lynn Gattis whom he jabbed repeatedly, hitting part-time Wasilla resident Sarah Palin squarely in the eye -- and shooting himself in the foot.
Alaska's legislative primary will be held Tuesday, August 28 when we will find out if Mr. Ewing's penchant for calling it like he sees it, helps or hurts in his efforts to be elected to the State House.