TV sportsman turned Congressman turned rightwing radio host turned Senate hopeful J.D. Hayworth, aka Foghorn Leghorn, came under fire last week when a late-night infomercial from 2007 surfaced, with JD hawking "free government money." Here's a condensed video version from TPM, if you don't want to watch the whole thing. For a guy who has historically wedded himself to the Reagan-Norquist "government is bad" meme (he even cites Reagan in his TV pitch), appearing on a tacky show that promises "hundreds of billions" of government dollars seemed a bit hypocritical.
The company, National Grants Conferences, was a scam, just like the infomercial for the magic vibrating belt that promises to melt fat off your tummy. Just Google NGC's name and you'll discover dozens of websites warning people to stay away from them. Evidently Hayworth, a perennial politician, who you would think just might check out the people and organizations he associates himself with, didn't even look at the Google:
"I should not have made the ad. It was a mistake. I believed, as did former Congressman J.C.Watts, this to be a reputable firm, but I did not completely check out the organization." Link
Nice one there, JD, throw another Congressman under the bus. "It's Watts' fault!" And what does he mean by "did not completely" check out NGC? He couldn't have at all. My Google search took .34 of a second. Busy day, JD? The problem was, NGC charged $999.95 for government grant information that is readily available online. Consumer-advocacy groups jumped all over them, at least 24 state attorneys general joined the fight, the BBB downrated them to an F, and they settled a $400,000 lawsuit for deceptive advertising. The next stop was bankruptcy.
So, not only was Hayworth pitching a service that flies in the face of his drown-in-a-bathtub political philosophy, but NGC was a crooked operation to boot. Good job, JD. If your Senate primary with John McCain was ever in doubt, it isn't now. Heck, even Glenn Beck took him to the woodshed over the infomercial.
At first Hayworth did what most politicians do when caught in a lie or awkward situation. If they don't say their comments were "taken out of context," then they make up some phony-baloney excuse to downplay the incident. It's no big deal, says Hayworth in this video:
"I'm a broadcaster, and yeah, I appeared in this, and yes, it was a job. And that's that."
In true wingnut fashion he also shifts the blame back on the viewer: "buyer beware," he says, as if it's your fault for falling for his scam. Sounds like the other yahoos who non-apologize apologize: "I'm sorry if you were offended by my offensive remark."
Yes, he is a broadcaster, which comes across in the NGC video — he's a pretty smooth huckster. Folks in Arizona remember JD as the Channel 10 sports guy, where he should've stayed. But with his name and face recognition, he glided into Congress on Gingrich's 1994 coattails, and managed to remain there until Harry Mitchell took him out in another revolution — 2006. In addition to the anti-Bush backlash, the fact that his own colleagues often voted Hayworth the biggest blowhard in Congress didn't help, nor did his ties to Jack Abramoff. Leading up to the 2006 race, JD tried to reinvent himself: he got a tummy tuck, lost half of himself, and showed up with a new spiky hairdo, but even that didn't help. So voters sent Hayworth back to Arizona, where he landed a morning radio gig, trying to be Limbaugh of the Southwest, and all the while keeping his name before voters, in anticipation of another campaign.
At the beginning of his Senate primary with McCain, Hayworth was endorsed by many in the far right and Tea Party crowd. They usually held their nose when they voted for McCain anyway, often over his earlier stance on immigration, which included a guest worker program and reasonable paths to citizenship. But with the passage of SB 1070 and its overwhelming approval among Republicans, McCain abandoned any principles and commonsense he may have once possessed, and over the past few months we've seen a race to the extreme right, to see who could out-crazy the other. There's no more talk from McCain about a guest worker program. Now it's "Build the dang fence," as he demands in one TV ad, something that just a year ago he argued was not the solution. If you drive around AZ today, you'll see dozens of big blue billboards that read: McCAIN: SECURING OUR BORDERS. It's the only issue that matters for the primary. Or it was.
The campaign pivoted last week with the NGC video, and both McCain and Hayworth know it. JD's mealy-mouthed explanation that "I'm a broadcaster," and I just did it for a few bucks, isn't flying with Tea Partiers who, as we've seen in other campaigns, don't take too kindly to traitors in their midst. And when Glenn Beck declares to the wingers that your political career is over, well, sayonara. The McCain team hasn't missed a beat of course, releasing several versions of this ad. For his part, Hayworth hopes voters will look at what's really important:
"I hope voters will look past a video presentation made three years ago and instead look at the issues confronting us in 2010," Hayworth says.
You know, important "issues confronting us," like whether the President was born in Kenya, a drum he keeps beating, or whether gay marriage leads to people marrying their horse. Seriously.
"You see, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, when it started this move toward same-sex marriage, actually defined marriage — now get this — it defined marriage as simply, 'the establishment of intimacy,'" Hayworth said. "Now how dangerous is that? I mean, I don't mean to be absurd about it, but I guess I can make the point of absurdity with an absurd point — I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse. It's just the wrong way to go, and the only way to protect the institution of marriage is with that federal marriage amendment that I support."
You make us proud, JD. See ya. Maybe you and Rick Santorum can do an informercial for a 12-step animal-addiction program.