Radtke: Red State’s Erick Erickson Must ‘Set the Record Straight’ After Making ‘Reprehensible’ Accusations Against Her
Posted on | September 1, 2011 | 100 Comments
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson has “propagated a lie” against Virginia Senate candidate Jamie Radtke, she said, insisting that the Red State managing editor must make a “full retraction” and “set the record straight.”
“Erick Erickson has created this situation, where he’s called me a drunk and a liar,” Radtke told me in an exclusive interview, “and he has not done a retraction – a prominent, full retraction, admitting what he’s done and setting the record straight in an honorable way.”
Radtke’s attorney has threatened legal action against Red State, a division of Eagle Publishing, unless Erickson retracts charges that Radtke was “a drunk, rambling idiot” during a conference speech and also retracts unspecified “other false and defamatory statements” Erickson made about her.
A furious online controversy erupted last week when Erickson, in response to a critical article in Politico, lashed out at Radtke. He called her speech at last month’s Red State Gathering an “act of self destruction” and published anonymous accusations that Radtke – a Christian home-schooling mother of three – was drunk during the speech.
It was “absolutely repulsive” for Erickson to have published such accusations, Radtke said, when in fact her speech was well received and praised immediately afterwards. She cited complimentary remarks by the wife of Red State contributor Ben Howe and from documentary film producer Stephen K. Bannon, whom she introduced at the event. Radtke said she understood that some in the audience may not have expected her speech to last 20 minutes, but said that was the time Erickson told her to speak.
Erickson had endorsed Radtke in January but an Aug. 24 Politico column by Ben Smith reported that Erickson was pressured to back away from that endorsement by Eagle executives because of their friendships with Radtke’s GOP primary rival, former Sen. George Allen.
In the telephone interview (see transcript below), Radtke said she believes Erickson’s accusations against her were an attempt to divert attention from the substance of that article: “So I think the issue is that he was confronted by Politico about [backing away from his earlier endorsement] and he didn’t tell the truth and now this is a dodge game for him: ‘So I don’t have to deal with the real story, let’s totally defame Jamie and throw her under the bus and say complete lies about her so I don’t have to deal with the real situation.’ And it’s absolutely reprehensible.”
Because Erickson has failed to fully retract his accusations, Radtke said, ”that story is not done, and I’m still waiting for him to make it right.”
* * * * *
Jamie Radtke Interview
(Conducted Friday, Aug. 26)
RSM: What happened?
RADTKE: I think what’s interesting is that the way it’s being reported is that I found out recently that Erick was going to have to back off [his endorsement] and therefore I retaliated. And that couldn’t be any further from the truth. We’ve known since January that Erick has had to back off, and I’ve been very sympathetic and understood his circumstance, and we’ve gone about our business and [have been] appreciative of what he’s been able to do.
So I think the issue is that he was confronted by Politico about it and he didn’t tell the truth and now this is a dodge game for him: ‘So I don’t have to deal with the real story, let’s totally defame Jamie and throw her under the bus and say complete lies about her so I don’t have to deal with the real situation.’ And it’s absolutely reprehensible.
This kind of politics, this stuff that goes on, really has got to stop. And there’s been a pattern over the last two to three years of this going on. It has to stop.
RSM: Well, let me ask, you were understanding of the fact that the corporate owners of Red State are friends of George Allen and so . . . you weren’t upset really . . . you didn’t take it personally?
RADTKE: I didn’t take it personally at all. Like I said, I’ve known since January and I was frustrated, but I’ve been in politics as a grassroots person for a long time. I know that’s how politics works and we’ve known this since January and I’ve done nothing with it. As a matter of fact, when people have asked me about it, I said, ‘Look, he’s doing what he can do, given the circumstances.’ Because they were like, ‘Why isn’t he doing more for you?’ . . .
When he had me speak at the Red State Gathering, I Tweeted and said, ‘Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here.’ They had asked me to speak for 20 minutes and that’s what I did. But I’ve been grateful for what he’s done, given the circumstance he was in and never begrudged him the circumstance he was in.
Now this – if I had wanted to make a hoo-haw over it, I’ve had eight months to do that, and the idea that I would make a deal out of it because I gave a bad speech that nobody knew about and therefore I wanted to pick a fight on him so that everybody would know about a supposed drunken rant, doesn’t even pass the logic test.
RSM: OK, well, so what happened was that Politico questioned [Erickson] about his backing away and he told a story that was at variance with the e-mails that he had sent to your campaign?
RADTKE: You know, Politico calls us and basically says, ‘Erick Erickson has said this about you and why he’s not involved in your campaign. Is it true?’ So I either affirm that Erick has said something negative about our campaign, or I take the novel approach and decide just to tell the truth. I mean, politicians and candidates get in more trouble by trying to not tell the truth, and he had basically said something that was very unflattering for our campaign, and they call us and say, ‘Is this true?’ And we say, ‘No it’s not,’ and we left it at that. And they go, ‘How do you know it’s not true?’ And we said, ‘Well, you know, he’s doing what he can do given the circumstances.’ . . .
The last thing my campaign would want is to pick a fight with anybody in the conservative movement. So the idea that this was manufactured by the Radtke campaign doesn’t really make sense.
RSM: Obviously you don’t want to get into an unnecessary confrontation, but y’all had to deal with Politico’s question to you, and they already had a story, apparently.
RADTKE: Right. They already had a story. They had already developed the story. They were coming to us. It was not going to be a friendly story. It was basically going to be – so, we get asked a question and we told the truth. But like I said, the idea that we would think, ‘You know what would be great for the campaign? Let’s pick a fight with Red State,’ that doesn’t even make sense.
RSM: No, it doesn’t. Now, let me ask about this speech at the Red State Gathering. It’s my understanding is that you were asked to introduce Stephen Bannon, and maybe you went on a little too long.
RADTKE: That’s not accurate. Or not entirely accurate, I should say. It’s always convenient [when] you can tell 10 percent of the story and then claim that’s the whole story. I had e-mailed Erick Erickson before I arrived at Red State. I told him I was coming and said, ‘I noticed you have other Senate candidates speaking,’ and I said, ‘Is there an opportunity for me to speak, to be introduced, to be recognized?’ He e-mailed me back and he said, you know, the agenda was full but he’d be happy to introduce me. And I e-mailed him back and I said, ‘Thank you very much. I appreciate whatever you can do.’ And I truly meant that. I appreciated what Erick could do.
And I got there and I met [Erickson] for the first time in person. He came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I was thinking, you could introduce Steve Bannon and the movie tomorrow night, and I could give you 20 minutes. You could talk about your campaign and why you’re running, and then you could introduce Steve Bannon and the movie.’ I said, ‘That’d be great and I would love that opportunity.’
[Erickson] said, ‘Well, let me know – let me know if you can do it.’ Because I wasn’t planning on staying that long, and I was going to have to stay an extra night in order to do that. So I said, ‘Well, let me check with my family and everything, to see if I can stay another night.’ . . . I texted him and said, ‘I can do it. How long do you want me to talk?’ and he texted me back and said 20 minutes. And that’s exactly what I did.
I got up and talked about my campaign and then segued to Steve Bannon and introducing the movie. If the segue wasn’t smooth or whatever – I mean, people can say that politicians ramble all the time. But I can guarantee you one thing: It was absolutely not a drunken speech and it wasn’t a ‘pitiful performance’ at all.
RSM: Let me interrupt to say that, is it possible that there was a difference in perception with the audience, who arrived expecting to hear Stephen Bannon introduce his movie, and then you got up and they thought, ‘Well, she’s going to introduce Bannon,’ and no one had told them that you were going to talk for 20 minutes about your Senate campaign?
RADTKE: That is absolutely possible. I don’t contest that at all. If it wasn’t an expectation [for] the audience that I was going to be speaking that long and they think I’m going to be up there for four or five minutes, and I go on for 20 minutes, and they think, ‘What is she doing?’
But I can tell you this, here are the things that are outrageous: Number one, all the things that were tweeted that night, including from [Red State contributor] Ben Howe’s wife, gave accolades to me being up there and giving that speech. Number two, I know for a fact that someone actually talked to Ben Howe after the event and that he and Ben Howe were talking about how great of a speech I gave. Number three, I had people talking to me for an hour and a half after the event – kept me there for an hour and a half – people coming up to me and talking about how great a speech it was and how could they be involved and how could they blog, and how could they be involved from Texas and from South Carolina and from Maryland.
So, no negative comments. I had Steve Bannon sending me a text message saying, ‘You nailed it’ or whatever – ‘Great speech.’ And what’s absolutely repulsive is that a Red State person would say that they were sitting next to my table and make a comment that ‘I only wish she had waited to start drinking until after her speech.’ So you have someone at the Red State table, in order to cover up Erick Erickson, absolutely lying through their teeth about me drinking . . . And now that they know that they’ve been caught in another lie, they’ve decided to try to tack that on and say, ‘Well, maybe she wasn’t drunk. Maybe she’s just an idiot.’
RSM: Which is not exactly fair.
RADTKE: Right. And so that sort of half-hearted, ‘Well, I sort of apologize,’ that stuff – that has got to stop. People do that to Sarah Palin, they’ve done that to Michelle Malkin, he did that when he talked about David Souter, calling him the things he did – and this is from what’s supposed to be conservative people. They have Red State people actually – and it’s in the comment field of the original story – this guy says he was at my table, next to me, and ‘I only wish she had waited to start drinking until after she got up [to speak].’
So now they have propagated a lie that has gone across the entire Internet and mainstream media, picked up in the Washington Post and everywhere else, it ran on WMAL [radio in Washington, D.C.], saying that I was drunk at an event. And to try to absolutely stop my campaign dead in its tracks because [Erickson] doesn’t like the fact that his situation got exposed, of which I had no intention or desire to expose it to begin with. I have been giving him the benefit of the doubt and trying to tell people he’s doing what he can for eight months, saying, ‘Look, the guy’s doing what he can, I appreciate what he’s doing.’ That’s politics, that’s how it’s played. . . .
RSM: So, in a sense – in a very large sense – you have been victimized, and yet when you say, ‘I’ve been victimized,’ they say, ‘Oh, she’s whining.’
RADTKE: Yeah, and that’s the thing. I don’t want to play the victim, but [Erickson] has absolutely played the leftist Saul Alinsky tactic that the Left always plays: If you’re guilty, then destroy the messenger. I frankly think that conservatives and Tea Party people should be outraged, that somebody can just throw out [an accusation] that you were drunk, and because of who it’s coming from, someone who’s influential in the movement and someone who’s respected in the movement, now everybody is supposed to believe that without any substantiated evidence whatsoever.
Think about it, Stacy. The thing that’s amazing is that there were 400 bloggers in the room. If my speech was that horrific – and nobody has any allegiance to me, they’ve never heard of me, they don’t know who I am – you don’t think one person would have written, like, ‘Good grief’? Tweeted ‘Good grief’? Put something on Facebook? Written a blog? I mean, the only thing that was actually published for public consumption very positive reports.
So [Erickson’s accusations of drunkenness] don’t pass the sniff test at all. Four hundred people and nothing? This comes out of nowhere because Politico runs a story on him and then so, in order to distract from the real story, they decided to absolutely try to destroy my campaign and my character. It’s not just my campaign, it’s my integrity as a Christian, as a mother, as a homeschooler, as a wife – and as a candidate. I mean, I have three children that I homeschool, and strong Christian beliefs, and now they’re being told and it’s all out on the Internet that their mother was a drunken raving idiot at an event. And this . . . has been done by conservatives, which is all the more appalling.
RSM: Now, to pivot away from that . . . How is your Senate campaign going? I mean, what are the metrics that you can talk about, in terms of how your campaign has been going? The last we saw . . . you had raised a quarter-million dollars, I believe it was, in the second quarter. What’s been going on in the past six weeks with your campaign?
RADTKE: We’ve been making good progress. We’ve got a couple of dynamics here. We’ve got every single [state and local official] up for re-election this year – every state senator, every House of Delegates member, every sheriff, every constitutional officer, every board of supervisors, every city council member – and so fund-raising for us is always going to be a challenge. But we’ve had a great response from the grassroots.
We’re getting our donations $100 at a time, so that doesn’t quickly turn into a million dollars. But I’m sitting here at a golf tournament today that we’re having . . . We’ve got sponsors for every hole, we’ve got 18 foursomes that are out here, we’ve got a course sponsorship. But for any campaign, the fund-raising is the biggest challenge, especially when you don’t have national prominence. It’s always going to be a challenge, but we’ve been making good progress on that. We’ve been making good progress on launching a bus tour to raise the visibility of the campaign . . . We hope to launch that in the next few weeks and get our campaign on the road.
We want to spend the next two months . . . focused on helping flip the state senate in Virginia, and so we’ll launch the bus and campaign, spend a lot of time focusing on helping Republicans take back the state senate in Virginia. That’s going to be our number one priority here for the next two months of the campaign.
RSM: So you’ll be campaigning for Republican state candidates in this year’s off-year election?
RADTKE: Yeah, we’re going to start, now that we’re past the primary. It’s summer, everybody’s been distracted and we had primaries going on. I’ve done a little bit of that, helping some people out in primaries. I got involved in some primary races that we won. . . . But we’re going to put a lot more focus and energy on helping the Republican Party and the conservatives all come together, and unite conservatives and Tea Party and Republicans in taking back the state senate this year. Because right now the Democrats control the state senate and they killed all the Tea Party legislation we had last year – they killed it all. So I want to make sure that we win the state senate so we can get that legislation through next year.
RSM: So right now, this is kind of ironic, considering what’s happened . . . right now, you’re engaged in a unity effort, being a team player for the GOP in Virginia?
RADTKE: Yeah . . . we were just waiting until after the primaries were over. . . . And then our campaign had said, after we get past the primaries and everybody’s back and the summer’s over, let’s focus our campaign effort and resources . . . to flip the state senate. And the Tea Party movement here in Virginia has been focused on ‘Seven Come Eleven,’ is what we’ve been calling it. . . . We want to try to grab seven [state senate] seats in 2011. That’s a high number, but we figure, we go for seven and only get three, we’ve done what we need to do.
And so yeah, you’re trying to unite the Republicans and the Tea Party and conservative to try to flip the state senate, and yet I’m being accused of just the opposite in the blogosphere. . . .
RSM: You’ve just gone through . . . a traumatic campaign experience and yet y’all are moving forward, you’re planning for the long run, you’re in it for the long haul, correct?
RADTKE: Oh, absolutely. . . . We want to get back to talking about the issues of spending and the debt and growing the economy. That’s what we want to talk about. We want to focus on uniting the conservative movement in Virginia and flipping the state senate here in Virginia.
But with all that being said, Erick Erickson has created this situation, where he’s called me a drunk and a liar, and he has not done a retraction – a prominent, full retraction, admitting what he’s done and setting the record straight in an honorable way. So that story is not done, and I’m still waiting for him to make it right. And it has to be made right, because I will not have that out there about me or about the campaign — or about all the supporters who have given money to my campaign and invested time and energy into this campaign – and have them do that to the thousands of people who have done that. We have thousands of people and they cannot do that. He’s got to set the record straight.