Montana Politics Ryan Zinke The Media

Ryan Zinke Thinks Waterboarding is Funny. The Gazette’s Editorial Is Just Sad

In the annals of astonishing false equivalency, Darrell Ehrlick, the editor of the Billings Gazette today chided the John Lewis campaign for, in his view, “leaking” a story to the Los Angeles Times about Ryan Zinke. The crux  of the story? Once again, former SEAL Commander Zinke made a joke about waterboarding.

According to the Gazette:

The story recounted a little scene right before the two candidates, Ryan Zinke and John Lewis, went on stage. Four people heard the remark, including the moderator, me. The other person was from the Lewis campaign.
Zinke said, “John plays the guitar. I waterboard.”

Ha ha, funny joke. Not so funny, though, when one recalls that  the Montana press also failed to report  that Ryan Zinke’s running mate in 2012 said the same thing, that both had waterboarded people in the past. Ehrlick bizarrely continues:

However, no one has asked or seriously broached the subject of Zinke and waterboarding. I suspect that there’s a group of Montana voters who would like Zinke more if it was true he knew how to waterboard.

Gosh. I wonder who, in a democratic society, should take the lead on investigating issues like that in political campaigns? What group of people could possibly write in-depth stories about a candidate’s repeated ethical failures, his penchant for exploiting and even distorting his military record, and his willingness to exploit campaign laws in such a brazen manner that it received a great deal of national attention, but almost none back at home?   Who? Certainly not the political press in this state, which has treated Zinke so gently you might guess he had personally threatened to waterboard them.

Was Zinke involved in torture? We’ll never know—and the Billings Gazette never even asked him. Why did he change his mind on abortion rights? We’ll never know—and the Gazette never asked him. On guns? On marijuana? On Social Security? We’ll never know—and the moralizing Gazette never asked him.

What seems to be most upsetting to Ehrlick is that someone practiced journalism in this race, not stenography about staged campaign events.

Ehrlick, clearly trying show what a balanced editorial view the Gazette has, continued to equate his unproven (and unreported) assertion that the Lewis campaign leaked an actual quote to a newspaper to the fact that Senator Zinke lied about his debate appearance. Ehrlich writes:

I chided Zinke for canceling a debate, commenting that if he or his campaign acts like this, what’s going to happen if we elect him?

There’s been no stinging opinion piece from Mr. Ehrlick about Ryan Zinke’s outside ad money, his dishonest campaign pieces, or his unmatched willingness to flip flop on the issues. Instead, he’s written a sad litttle hit piece two days before the election falsely equating someone accurately reporting a quote to a newspaper with a candidate refusing to honor a committment to debate and inform the voters.

That sounds exactly like the kind of thing you’d expect someone who covered for a wife and child-beating Republican state senator to do, if you ask me.

Ehrlick has also apparently missed the series of Zinke campaign claims that seek to smear John Lewis based on an out of context conversation at an event with Steny Hoyer. Even though Lewis has a far better record with the NRA than does Ryan Zinke—and the Zinke campaign claims are laughable, not to mention coordinated with outside groups— there has been no outrage from Darrel Ehrlick or the Gazette.

In the end, there may be only one true claim in the entire Ehrlick piece, that there has been some “gotcha is politicking worthy of the gutter” in this race. It’s just that the person doing it is Mr. Ehrlick.


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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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