Longworth’s encounter with Brad Miller

by Jim Longworth

I’m no doctor, but I’ve been told that it’s not good to keep picking at a scab. If you do, the wound will never heal. It was in that spirit that I tried to heal the wound between Democratic Rep. Brad Miller and me. Before I tell you how I attempted to end our strife, let me first summarize the salient points upon which the feud was formed and fueled.

• Miller’s campaign manager Denise Turner promised me he would make a joint appearance with Vernon Robinson on “Triad Today.” She and Brad deny it, but I take meticulous notes, and I say she did make that promise back in June of this year.

• Miller’s marketing gal LuAnn Canipe lodged a complaint about me with the implied intent of having me fired. She defamed my character by stating publicly that I acted unprofessionally and accused me of working for Vernon Robinson.

Concurrent with these offenses Miller also refused to appear on FM 101’s “Brad and Britt Show” just because he didn’t trust the hosts’ ability to be fair and balanced, then allowed the NC Democratic Party to smear these humorous, but highly capable, radio journalists by calling into question their integrity and referring to them as “shock jocks.” Such mean-spirited treatment of journalists indicates a character flaw in Miller and his campaign, and his refusal to appear on interview forums that are fair but tough is tantamount to political cowardice.

Then, just when I thought everyone had spoken their piece and the sniping had subsided, Miller himself placed a call to one of the TV stations on which “Triad Today” is broadcast. Clearly, Miller was becoming obsessed and angered with my columns and commentaries, and clearly this situation was deteriorating into an ugly controversy that was capable of overshadowing its very impetus.

In other words, the media (of which I am a part) was becoming more interested in Miller’s feud with scorned interviewers than with why he refuses to face Robinson in no-holds-barred discourse.

And so I decided to pick up the phone, dial Brad’s private cell number and try to make peace so that he and I, the media and the voters, could all move on to more important things.

My telephone encounter with him didn’t go so well.

I placed the call on Sept. 28 at approximately 12:50 p.m. Brad was outside the House chambers readying for a roll-call vote. I began cordially.

JL: “Congressman, this is Jim Longworth’… I want you to know that I have nothing against you personally, and there’s no sense in this feud escalating.”

My intent was to extend an olive branch and once again invite him to appear on my TV show. But I wasn’t allowed to get that far. For most of the brief conversation (under three minutes), Miller angrily quoted from my column and repeatedly defended the actions of his staff.

The longer we stayed on the phone, the more defensive he became. I then tried to steer the conversation away from personalities and back to the problem that started the feud.

JL: “Isn’t the bigger issue why your staff went back on a promise, and now you won’t debate Vernon?”

Miller: “They say they never promised you that.”

JL: “They’re wrong and we differ on that issue.”

Miller: “I take the word of my staff over yours.”

JL: “Congressman, I take offense to that.”

Miller: (Angrily) “Well I don’t care what you take offense to!”

JL: “Brad, what are you so scared of?”

Miller: (Raising his voice) “I’m not scared of a damn thing! And I gotta go vote.” (Hangs up.)

I was a bit shocked by Miller’s contentious nature. I had hoped that we could have a calm and productive conversation, and let bygones be bygones. I was also offended by his attack on my integrity and by his unprofessional demeanor.

“Triad Today”‘s reputation for hard-hitting but fair political interviews is well established and well decorated, including a citation by Congress and the prestigious Spectrum of Democracy Award from the NC Center for Voter Education.’ 

Moreover, scores of incumbents have appeared on “Triad Today,” including Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx who was elected after out-performing Vernon Robinson and Jim Harrell during a debate on my TV show. And Foxx, with whom I disagree on some big issues, is returning to “Triad Today” to face off against Roger Sharpe even though as an incumbent with an overwhelming lead, she has nothing to gain and everything to lose by appearing with me.

But then again, folks like Richard Burr, Virginia Foxx, Jim Harrell and Vernon Robinson aren’t afraid to answer tough, unscripted questions.

Brad Miller, on the other hand, is afraid of just about everything and everybody.

He is scared of Robinson. He is scared to be interviewed on “Triad Today.”

He is scared to appear on WZTK FM 101. In fact, Brad is scared to participate in any forum that he can’t control. And now, on top of being scared, Brad Miller is angry with the media for reporting that he is scared.

This isn’t about Republican versus Democrat. And my criticism of Miller is not an endorsement of the Republican Party. In fact, I deplore how George Bush has presided over our country, and his actions over the past five years border on the criminal. As an independent who opposes Bush’s strong-arm tactics, I would like nothing better than to see the Democrats take control of Congress. The 13th Congressional District is mainly white and Democrat, but voting for Brad Miller just because he is a white Democrat only validates politics as usual and rewards incumbents who hide from their opponents.

Ironically, Brad’s rant (“I’m not scared of a damn thing! And I gotta go vote.”), might just be the rally cry of citizens when they show up on Nov. 7, and demonstrate they’re not afraid to vote for an outspoken black Republican over a frightened white Democrat.

Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on My48 (cable channel 15).