You couldn’t really blame Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden) if he simply canceled his Facebook account after the ridicule heaped upon him for his having fallen for a “story” on The Onion.
For those who still don’t know, The Onion is a web page that offers parodies of news stories.
Of course, Fleming, the all-in-one political reincarnation of Willie Rainach, Leander Perez and John Rarick, isn’t the only public official to fall for a satirical story published by The Onion. Only a few weeks ago the official Chinese People’s Daily English language website picked up the story in which The Onion named North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive,” http://www.npr.org/2012/12/01/166293306/the-onion-so-funny-it-makes-us-cry running it verbatim and adding a 55-photo slideshow of Kim.
But when The Onion ran a story in May of 2011 announcing that Planned Parenthood had opened an $8 billion Abortionplex, Fleming swallowed the bait, albeit nearly a year later, giving the story new legs http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/john-fleming-onion-planned-parenthood_n_1257763.html.
The story provided details of the “sprawling abortion facility,” including more than 2,000 rooms, coffee shops, bars, dozens of restaurants, retail outlets, a three-story nightclub and a 10-screen multiplex theater—“features intended not only to help clients relax, but to foster a sense of community and make abortion more of a social event.”
Last February, Fleming jumped into the fray, posting on his Facebook page, “More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale.” http://literallyunbelievable.org/post/17153265749/how-exactly-did-you-get-elected Fleming spokesman Doug Sachteben later confirmed that the red-faced congressman had removed the post but the damage was done.
The blog Literally Unbelievable, which posts Facebook statuses from users who believe Onion articles, pounced on Fleming’s status before it was removed and re-posted it, prompting a few interesting comments:
• “…The Republican Party has become the party of the rich, the paranoid and the simple-minded.”
• “How can he really believe something so patently stupid?”
• “How much of a moron can you be and not be declared unfit for public office?”
• “Since Fleming is clearly brain-dead, can we unplug him now?”
So, not only was the good congressman from Minden gullible, he was also way behind the curve in being so.
Gullible and slow: not a good combination for a member of Congress, but welcomed by The Onion’s editor, Joe Randazzo.
“We’re delighted to hear that Rep. Fleming is a regular reader of America’s finest news source and doesn’t bother himself with the New York Times, Washington Post, the mediums of television and radio, or any other lesser journalism outlets,” he said.
Of course, Fleming loves to post onto his Facebook page, with many of his messages containing vitriolic criticism of political opponents.
He even goes so far as to block comments on his Facebook page from anyone who disagrees with him—a practice that should raise eyebrows considering the fact that he ostensibly represents all citizens in his Fourth Congressional District.
“Fleming threatened to ban/block me from his FB page for a comment I made that was not bad; it just pointed out his hypocrisy,” one of his constituents wrote.
Another, a retired federal employee, said he was accepted as a “friend” on Fleming’s Facebook page. “I had no problem viewing and commenting on anything that was posted,” he said. “At that time, I was often appalled at how demeaning Congressman Fleming or his staff was to some of the people who seemed to present a different point of view.
“If comments were supportive or “atta-boy” comments, he would praise the person and be very complimentary. But if they were contradictory, he would be very critical or condescending of the person,” he said.
After posting occasional comments that took issue with Fleming positions, the federal retiree sometime in early 2012 suddenly found that he could read Fleming’s posts but no longer could submit comments.
“I spent 16 years of my career working with congressional members relative to budget, so I am experienced at protocol, respecting and communicating with representatives and senators,” he said. “When I posted a comment, it might be supportive, neutral or contradictory, but the comment was always professionally worded and backed up with facts.
“As best I could tell, I had been flagged or was not allowed to post comments on anything posted on Congressman Fleming’s Facebook page.
“Hence, as a person who lives within his district, I am not allowed to express a concern or an opinion on his Facebook posts,” he said.
As a footnote to an earlier post, perhaps LouisianaVoice was a bit unfair to Fleming in portraying him as being interested in advancing only the interests of the wealthy by opposing any tax increase on those making more than $1 million per year.
We may have inadvertently made him appear greedy in showing how he obtained his riches first as a physician and then by branching out into other areas such as Subway sandwich shops and UPS franchises.
We may even have been unfair in pointing out the discrepancies in his numbers when he said he only has $600,000 left over after his businesses brought in $6.3 million in 2010 and the remaining $5.7 million had to go to paying 500 employees, equipment purchase and leasing and the purchase of food for his restaurants.
After all, it almost certainly was a misstatement on his part to imply that he was paying his 500 employees at a wage below the national poverty level. ($5.7 million divided by 500 employees comes to $11,400 per year, the approximate national poverty level in 2010.)
Surely, it was unfair to imply that Fleming does not care for the working poor when a search of corporations run by him reveals that he represents Fleming Payday Loans, an enterprise that offers short-term loans to those who need quick cash to tide them over from payday to payday.
Never mind that the annualized interest rate of a two-week loan may be as high as 390 percent.
He’s helping the poor, right?