The big news story in today's Springfield News-Leader was Seventh District Congressman Billy Long's "apology" for remarks he tweeted Monday comparing the U. S. debt situation to the death of singer Amy Winehouse.
The headline reads "Billy Long apologizes for tweet." The article, written by the News-Leader's political reporter Rosann Moring, includes the following statement:
He later apologized to anyone offended by his remarks.
No, he didn't. He used the word apologize (or more likely, one of his staffers used the word), but there is no evidence that there is any sorrow about the statement. He is only sorry that some people were offended by it.
If the apology contained one shred of sincerity, Billy Long would have removed the offending tweet. As of this writing, it is still there, in all of its glory.
Long has had a tendency since his arrival in Washington of dashing off tweets that have not put him in the best light. Many of the ones that have caused the most problem have been when he has tried to be funny. This one lands squarely in that category.
In the tweet, Long wrote, "No one could reach #AmyWinehouse before it was too late. Can anyone reach Washington before it's too late? Both addicted - same fate???"
The "apology," sent to the News-Leader last night, reads as follows:
"Although I do believe spending 42 percent more than we take in is an addiction, I certainly meant no disrespect to Amy, her family or her fans. She was one of the few true artists to come along in a long time. What happened to her was a senseless tragedy and drawing an analogy wasn't meant to minimize the loss of life. If anyone took offense, I sincerely apologize."
The original tweet was in extremely poor taste and the fact that it was published in the first place, indicates that Twitter may not be the best tool for Billy Long to use to get his views across. The ability to say whatever is on your mind and immediately publish it to the world has undoubtedly revolutionized how constituents receive their information from politicians, but at the same time, it opens the door for all kinds of problems when the politician involved does not seem to have any built-in warning system that would tell him when it is best to keep his one-liners to himself.
Reading the comments to the News-Leader's story, it is easy to see why our country is so polarized. Some say Long should not have apologized since he did not say anything wrong. And, of course, the publicity the issue has received is all due to "liberals" and "socialists" and others who don't agree with Billy Long's "fed up" with government stances on issues.
Others said that the News-Leader was showing its "liberal bias" by making the Billy Long controversy its number one story on the same day that the Missouri Republican Party filed an ethics complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Sen. Claire McCaskill. As usual, those who are searching for liberal bias are going to find it whether it is there or not. It is a crutch they use on any occasion when there is no logic that can support what they are saying.
It must have been the News-Leader's liberal bias that led it to endorse Billy Long's candidacy in both the primary and general elections in 2010. As for the McCaskill complaint, it was featured prominently in the newspaper, though not as prominently as the reaction to Long's tweet. The GOP complaint was the latest in a series of continuing developments concerning Claire McCaskill and her finances. The Billy Long story is new, and considering that Amy Winehouse died only three days ago, it is timely.
The readers who do not think Long should have "apologized" for his tweet continually refer to Ms. Winehouse's well-chronicled problems with drugs and alcohol.
Apparently, for those people the difficulties this troubled young woman had during her too-short life are an open invitation that allows any comment to be made about her, no matter how tasteless it may be.
Her troubles were played out on a public stage which makes it easy to overlook what is important about this situation- Amy Winehouse was someone's daughter, someone's friend, someone's loved one.
She should never have been Billy Long's punch line.