A controversy about Eastern Kentucky stereotypes has developed in the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture race. Agriculture Commissioner is a statewide elected office in Kentucky.
The Republican nominee, State Representative Jamie Comer, released a video this week showing his Democratic opponent, Bob Farmer of Louisville, joking about Eastern Kentucky during a comedy performance in Indiana.
Comer posted clips of Farmer saying "Eastern Kentucky" is a "different kind of place" where "cars are on blocks and houses are on wheels."
Another clip showed Farmer saying that the FBI would not do work in an Eastern Kentucky county because "all the DNA is alike and there ain't no dental records."
Another clip had Farmer saying that people in Eastern Kentucky don't trust him. "You know, I had shoes on, I got all my teeth."
WYMT in Hazard did a report on the controversy showing a clip of Farmer saying that "they don't move their lips when they talk" and making fun of the speaking style.
In a statement to the news media, Farmer apologized for the remarks. He said that "I apologize if it offends anyone. I don't want to offend people."
Farmer told the Lexington Herald Leader that he had done the comedy routine for 25 years and no one has complained.
The Republican Party of Kentucky has called for Farmer to withdraw from the race. That is extremely unlikely as it would leave Comer as the automatic winner.
Kentucky law does not allow replacing a primary opponent after a nominee is chosen.
The law about not allowing a party to replace a nominee was passed a Democratic legislature after the 1978 Congressional election. The Republican party got its 6th district Congressional nominee, Mary Louise Foust to resign and she was replaced by the eventual winner Larry Hopkins after a weaker candidate, Tom Easterly upset incumbent Congressman John Breckinridge in the 1978 Democratic primary.
According to the Lexington Herald Leader, Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, who is a Democrat, sent a letter to the Herald Leader saying that Farmer is "no longer welcome here."
The Herald Leader also quoted Rutherford saying, "During his visit to Pike County in April of this year, he was treated with the utmost respect," Rutherford said. "And, by the way, I don't know if he noticed but I had shoes on and all of my teeth."
Just like in the case of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the first bit of news breaking from YouTube and social networks has sparked additional information about Farmer to hit the internet.
Jacob Payne, a well respected investigative journalist who blogs for the website, Page One Kentucky, posted on his website a longer YouTube version of Farmer's comedy routine.
Along with the remarks that Comer posted in his video, in the video posted on Page One, Farmer makes additional remarks about a woman from Eastern Kentucky named Pamela Sue. "I looked at the beauty mark that Pamela Sue had, like Marilyn Monroe and I found out it was a tick." He mentioned that his wife Jo Ann is from Eastern Kentucky saying, "notice that they all have two or three names."
Farmer said that he saw Pamela Sue with one shoe. "Hey Pamela Sue did you lose a shoe?" The response from Pamela Sue was "no I found one."
For decades, Eastern Kentucky has suffered the brunt of stereotypes. Television shows like the Beverly Hillbillies and plays like The Kentucky Cycle made millions of dollars off those stereotypes, although Appalachian activists like Gurney Norman have waged a fierce battle to keep the image out of the media.
Don McNay is an award winning columnist and author. He was selected to be an honorary Duke of Hazard by the late Hazard, Kentucky Mayor Bill Gorman. You can read more about McNay at www.donmcnay.com
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