Deep Thoughts from Team Pearce:
A new interpretation of, “We report, you decide.”
I had an interesting email exchange with Matt Tolman, head
Who Oppose the Pearce Recall. On
October 24th, Tolman sent an email to the Republican precinct
committeemen in LD18, saying:
“There is a new website up that is covering information that
the media is not covering about Jerry Lewis called http://www.meetjerrylewis.com/.
Some of you will be upset that I've sent this out and I can understand. I
believe that everybody should however read the information and make their own
determination as to what is right and what is wrong.”
That website is a smear-site that propagates various hits on
Jerry Lewis, Russell Pearce’s opponent in the recall election. The content ranges from silly to untruthful,
and relies heavily on writing by
Becky Fenger, of Sonoran News.
Before writing this, I spoke to Matt Tolman about it, and he denied any knowledge
of who owns or operates the site, or of having any connection other than to
have forwarded a link to it.
I am satisfied by talking firsthand to those involved that
the information is false, but New Times reporter Stephen Lemons also did some thorough
investigative reporting that completely debunks the claims made by Ms.
I wrote Tolman to protest his promotion of the site and its scurrilous
“[Wrong]…are claims that Jerry misappropriated $1.9 million….That
is factually wrong, and I think it was based on that poorly researched article
by Becky Fenger….For example, during the time period they discuss, starting in
2005, Jerry was a seminary teacher, not an employee of Sequoia. Jerry
didn’t start with Sequoia until 2007. Jerry never was superintendent, and
never ‘stepped down,’ as they claim. Jerry’s school, Sequoia, never did anything
wrong in the case referenced; rather it was Joy schools that were accused
of wrongdoing, and Sequoia was not in any way found culpable….The inaccuracies
of that article are adequately identified here, or
you’re welcome to investigate it yourself.
“You can say, ‘Jerry is bad, Jerry
is unqualified, Jerry hates Mesa,’ and all the other things I’ve seen, and while
they sound tacky and over the top to me, it seems to fall within the realm of
political speech and campaigning. But when you traffic in things that are
factually untrue, that enters into another area completely—one that I find
degrading to our political climate.”
“What's the difference between what
you…[and others]…have been saying about Russell. I don't see much difference
and o [sic] would be careful about the pot calling the kettle black”
In other words, “Since I think you’ve told some lies, we’re
okay to do it too.” Wow.
I seem to remember trying to make the “but he did it too” argument
a few times when I was a kid. My parents
live across the street, so I walked over to see if this excuse was okay now
after all these years, and…nope. It
still doesn’t fly with Mom.
Asked for specific examples of “lies” told by the Lewis
campaign, off the top of his head Tolman claimed Lewis allies have said Russell
Pearce was “fired” from the MVD, whereas Tolman asserts that Pearce was
replaced as director of the MVD in a politically-motivated move. The Lewis campaign has not made an issue of Pearce’s
I can tell you that although Jerry Lewis has cried foul on the
ever-evolving story Russell Pearce has told about his lavish Fiesta Bowl gifts,
he has been very careful to stay far away from attacks on Pearce’s family, or
from repeating claims that are either old, irrelevant, or tenuous. Lewis doesn’t believe, and doesn’t claim, that
“Pearce is a Nazi because he endorsed J.T. Ready for Mesa’s City Council,” for
So there’s a new standard being introduced by some Pearce
supporters: Apparently you can justify
spreading falsehoods by saying, “Hey, why are we responsible for what you
believe? You have the right to go out
and investigate, and find out for yourself if we’re telling the truth; that’s
not our responsibility.” Help me come up
with a catchy new phrase for this new approach.
“Did we lie? You decide.”
I actually had a good conversation with Matt Tolman, and he
said he was urging others to consider the impact to the Sequoia Schools, not
just Jerry Lewis, before passing on information that might be false, and I
actually believe he cares about it. The
election has been unusually divisive in our community, and Matt and I both
agreed we’ll be glad when it’s over.
But should we overlook the malicious mendacity of the hit-for-hire
squad who put these tales in print? What
about another incident involving Becky Fenger, who in the same article
referenced above, published claims that Jerry Lewis stole items from a
school? That’s not true, according to
Jerry’s boss, Ron Neil. First, they don’t
sell donated items to raise money; they re-donate them to other organizations, contrary
to what Fenger claimed. Here is what
happened: Two boxes of used adult clothes
and an old entertainment center, that the school couldn’t use, were donated to
a teacher, Heather Glass, who was trying to raise money through a yard sale to
adopt an orphan from Ethiopia. She asked
permission, and Jerry granted it. She
ultimately did not use the school-donated items because she received so much
other stuff from other people. The clothes were subsequently given to a thrift
store, and the entertainment center went back to sit in storage at the school. From that incident, Fenger, and Pearce
supporters who relied on her information, fabricated a story that “Jerry Lewis
stole from homeless children.” Constantin
Querard’s pro-Pearce group, “Arizona Deserves the Best,” even sent a mailer
claiming that Lewis “stole backpacks from homeless children.” Backpacks?
Where did he get that from? That’s
a complete fabrication. The “theft”
narrative is not even true according to Diane Fernichio, whose wrongful
termination lawsuit was the original source of this information. She claimed that she was fired in part
because she complained about Lewis and the donation incident. Her lawyer’s statement about the issue simply
declared that Fernichio felt it was improper to give the items to an individual,
and that they should have gone to a non-profit organization—which they finally did,
although they passed through an individual first. Perdón.
Supposedly Chuck Coughlin was rumored to have personally shopped
this story to respectable news outlets, who I’m guessing all turned it down for
a reason: one or two simple phone calls clear it all up. And we’re talking about maybe $40-$50 worth
of used stuff. The hit-squad’s “Lewis scandal”
just doesn’t pass the sniff test, not to mention the who-cares test. Was the school deprived of resources? No.
Did Lewis profit personally?
No. Did they break faith with
those who donated the used items? Only
if you think adopting orphans from Africa is an unworthy cause. If the Pearce apologists actually cared about
homeless children, they would have taken the $10,000-$20,000 they spent mailing
this tale to everyone in LD18…and donated it to homeless children.
And where is Russell Pearce’s voice in this? I know, I know…he had no idea all this was
being done by his proxies and supporters.
And that may very well be true.
But just as in the Olivia Cortes scandal, Pearce could have simply said,
“I don’t think this is right, and I call on it to stop.” And it would have stopped. But he didn’t do that, and his silence is
Tyler Montague is a
vice-chair of the LD18 Republicans, and a life-long resident of Mesa. He and his father approached Jerry Lewis and
asked him to consider running in the race for LD18’s Senate seat.