It was a standard journalism request — the kind reporters and editors make everyday.
And it was a perfectly acceptable one — the kind you'd probably be asking yourself if you bumped into your senator or Congress member over their five-week recess this summer.
It's the kind of request for a comment you or someone beside you might make at one of those old-fashioned town hall meetings that federal leaders used to schedule back when they cared about what you were thinking and wondering and concerned about. (But don't hold your breath for a town hall meeting this year with your elected representatives: Most of them stopped hosting those even before they passed a tax break for the rich, kept threatening the Affordable Care Act and started calling Social Security an entitlement.)
Seriously, this should be an easy answer for them, so Times Opinion Editor Pam Sohn (yours truly) on Monday afternoon put the request in separate emails to five U.S. senators and 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives — all Republicans and all from Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
"I am asking for Sen. (or Rep.) ____'s comment on President Trump's recent tweets about "racist" U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and "rat and rodent infested" Baltimore, Trump's tweets about the four freshmen representatives who should "go back" to their countries and Trump's non-stop attack on truth and special counsel Robert Mueller.
I am working on a Wednesday 2:30 p.m. deadline.
Pam Sohn, Times Editorial Page Editor, Chattanooga Times Free Press"
Folks, this is a no-brainer. If our children spouted the kinds of racist, hurtful mockery that our president has, we'd be sitting them down for a talking to or worse. They'd likely be suspended from school. Dropped from their ball teams. Yet the president's fellow Republicans, for the most part, can't find it in their souls to tell him he's out of line.
A recent poll finds 51% of voters say they think Trump is a racist. The responses break down along party lines. The same seems true in our Congress, and we didn't email the nine Democratic representatives and senator from our tri-state region because for the most part, they've already roundly chided the president. The House (with only four Republicans joining the Democrats) passed a resolution condemning some of Trump's comments.
We addressed each email to each senator's and representative's press secretary. As that title implies, it's a press secretary's job to field requests and questions from the media and to help the boss respond to those questions. They usually do so quickly — even if the response is a simple "no comment."
Not this time. This time the great majority — 25 of the 27 — had no response.
Sen. Lamar Alexander's aide, Ashton Davies, was the first to reply: "When the senator was asked about this by reporters [recently], this is what he said — 'I like Baltimore, and I like it better when the president talks about policy.'"
The second reply was from Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson's aide Amanda Maddox: "Senator Isakson is currently in Georgia recovering from fractured ribs and undergoing intensive physical rehabilitation. We have not been able to get a statement or comment from him about the weekend's tweets regarding Baltimore and Rep. Cummings. On July 15, he told the AJC that the president's tweets directed at four congresswomen were "totally inappropriate." Here's the full quote: 'I wasn't elected to make excuses or explain the statements of somebody else, and so I'm just not going to do that.' And he said, 'I think it was totally inappropriate, and he doesn't have to do that, which is what makes it sadder. He's going to have to be the one to explain because I don't understand it.'"
There was no response whatsoever from Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn or Tennessee Reps. Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, Mark Green, Tim Burchett, David Kustoff, Phil Roe or John Rose.
There was no response from Georgia Sen. David Perdue or Georgia Reps. Tom Graves, Doug Collins, Rick Allen, Drew Ferguson, Buddy Carter, Barry Loudermilk, Austin Scott, Jody Hice or Rob Woodall. (Though Woodall, like Isakson, had been widely reported as calling the president's comments about the four congresswomen inappropriate.)
There was no response whatsoever from Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby or Reps. Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Gary Palmer, Martha Roby, Mike D. Rogers, or Rep. Bradley Byrne. (Spoiler alert: We reported on this page in mid-July that Byrne had tweeted he'd pay for the congresswomen's "ticket to Venezuela so they can enjoy their failed Socialist Paradise.")
Perhaps you'll have better luck getting through to your elected officials than we did. Above are their phone numbers and email links. Let them know you care.
Sen. Lamar Alexander — 202-224-4944, www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Email
Sen. Marsha Blackburn — 202-224-3344, www.blackburn.senate.gov/contact_marsha
Rep. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann — 202-225-3271, https://fleischmann.house.gov/contact
Rep. Scott DesJarlais — 202-225-6831, https://desjarlais.house.gov/contact
Rep. Mark Green — 202-225-2811, https://markgreen.house.gov/contact
Rep. Tim Burchett — 202-225-5435, https://burchett.house.gov/contact
Rep. David Kustoff — 202-225-4714, https://kustoff.house.gov/contact
Rep. Phil Roe — 202-225-6356, https://roe.house.gov/contact
Rep. John Rose — 202-225-4231, https://johnrose.house.gov/contact
Sen. Johnny Isakson — 202-224-3643, www.isakson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email—me
Sen. David Perdue — 202-224-3521, www.perdue.senate.gov/connect/email
Rep. Tom Graves — 202-225-5211, https://tomgraves.house.gov/contact
Rep. Doug Collins — 202-225-9893, https://dougcollins.house.gov/contact-doug
Rep. Rick Allen — 202-225-2823, https://allen.house.gov/contact
Rep. Drew Ferguson — 202-225-5901, https://ferguson.house.gov/contact
Rep. Buddy Carter — 202-225-5831, https://buddycarter.house.gov/contact
Rep. Barry Loudermilk — 202-225-2931, https://loudermilk.house.gov/contact
Rep. Austin Scott — 202-225-6531, https://austinscott.house.gov/contact
Rep. Jody Hice — 202-225-4101, https://hice.house.gov/contact
Rep. Rob Woodall — 202-225-4272, https://woodall.house.gov/contact
Sen. Richard Shelby — 202-224-5744, www.shelby.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailsenatorshelby
Rep. Mo Brooks — 202-225-4801, https://brooks.house.gov/contact—me/email—me
Rep. Robert Aderholt — 202-225-4876, https://aderholt.house.gov/contact—robert
Rep. Gary Palmer — 202-225-4921, https://palmer.house.gov/contact/email
Rep. Martha Roby — 202-225-2901, https://roby.house.gov/contact
Rep. Mike D. Rogers — 202-225-3261, https://mikerogers.house.gov/contact
Rep. Bradley Byrne — 202—225—4931, https://byrne.house.gov/contact