So how was it that Republican state Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View tweeted during an Ozark Tea Party rally in Mountain Home on June 9 that she was attending a “great event,” when, in fact, one of the Tea Party leaders at that event publicly told a blatantly racist joke?
It’s an interesting story, actually, one she was dying to tell me. And which I will relate.
To cut first to the chase: We may see Irvin as a garden-variety right-winger in Little Rock doing the Koch brothers’ bidding, but the fact is that she gets hit hard up in those mid-northern Arkansas hills for being a dirty danged moderate.
Here’s her story:
She went to this Tea Party rally, arriving late with her four children, and was detained by a radio reporter who escorted her to the kitchen of the meeting site for an interview. Her children went ahead to the assembly.
She tweeted about the greatness of the event from this radio interview site based on the size of the crowd. She hadn’t heard a word of oratory from it, much less this racist joke.
After the radio interview of 10 minutes or so, she entered the rally and stood at the back awaiting being called on to speak.
When she spoke, a few extreme right-winters sat on the front row and did a little mild scoffing, but nothing, she said, like the time in Batesville two years ago when a guy scared her by screaming at her that she was a “RINO,” meaning a Republican in name only, for being friendly with Hispanics whom she coaches in soccer, and for having refused to attend a “patriot” group rally in Stone County where an avowed KKK leader was to speak, and for supporting flouride in water because her doctor husband tells her of encountering severe children’s health issues because of bad oral health.
It was not until after she was in her car with her kids that they told her of this horrible racist joke that this Tea Party leader, a woman named Inge Marler, had told. In fact, Irvin said, her 16-year-old had gone to the podium after the meeting and retrieved the notes the woman used to tell the joke, and handed the piece of paper to Irvin.
She denounces racism, as do her children, she said.
“I’ll just be frank,” she told me. “Some people in my district ARE racist. I mean, I walked into Wal-Mart the other day and encountered a guy in a Rebel T-shirt.”
She said that a Republican primary opponent who ran against her two years ago from the right, and who opposes her again this time as a third-candidate independent, has accused her of being soft on illegal immigration, apparently because she has said the issue must be divorced from racist attitudes toward Hispanics, one of whom is her best friend and several of whom she coaches in soccer.
Yes, she told me, sometimes the illegal immigration debate among her constituents can meander into racist comments toward Hipsanics, “and those just go all over me,” she says.
Then, once elected, she compounted her problems with the nut-right by supporting flouridization – for wanting, as she put it, “supposedly to poison their water.”
So it sounds like an unfortunate coincidence — her tweeting about the greatness of an event without knowing that her children were being offended at that moment by a racist joke.
It also sounds like a bona fide right-winger at the state Capitol can be a socialist moderate to some back home in the hills.