Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday June 19th 2019

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Outtakes—We Didn’t Start the Fire

By Rick Outzen

The Pensacola News Journal’s award-winning editorial cartoonist doesn’t need me to defend him against the malicious attacks by a demagogue. However, I will stand up for Andy Marlette.

State Rep. Mike Hill wanted the media to hear his talk before Women for Responsible Legislation on May 23. He wanted coverage on his statement that God told him to resubmit legislation that would ban abortion in Florida, with hardly any exemptions. And he received the national attention that he craved because of the media coverage.

Then, Inweekly reported what else Hill said and released audio that revealed Hill and others laughing about legislation that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. Following our report, Marlette criticized the group for giggling at the notion.

Hill refused to talk with Inweekly or PNJ reporters to clarify his actions. Instead, he took to talk radio to spin the issue and attack Marlette, calling the PNJ cartoonist’s May 31 column a “slanderous hit piece.”

“This Pensacola News Journal guy is trying to make it out that I laughed at (it), and he said I want to kill gays,” said Hill on the radio.

In his column, Marlette never wrote that Hill wanted to “kill gays” but did rebuke Hill and the WRL audience for giggling about the “mere possibility” of such legislation. However, the state representative didn’t let facts block his path to victimhood. He claimed Marlette had turned the WRL incident into “a social media lynch mob” by using the words “plan” and “lynch” several times in his column.

I’ll admit, I’m more than little befuddled about any evil connotations tied to the word “plan,” but Marlette didn’t use “lynch,” “lynching” or “plan” in his column. PNJ reporter Jim Little also didn’t use the hateful word “plan,” but he did write about “lynching” in his article on the statewide pushback against Hill. However, he was quoting what Hill had written on Twitter.

When a morning show host pointed out that the lawmaker was the only one who brought up lynching, Hill moved to his standard defense—”Andy Marlette is attacking me because he knows I’m a conservative Christian who believes in the value of America being a Christian nation.”

A wise politician told me recently, “When you walk into a room of dry kindling and throw gasoline on it, you shouldn’t be surprised when someone lights a match and starts a fire.”

Hill walked into city hall wanting media attention, and the small crowd lapped up his every word. Then, when the discussion went a direction maybe he didn’t intend, the media was there to capture the match being struck.

Don’t blame us for your fire, Mr. Hill.