Let’s review here: Jeanne Tarantino is the former aide to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who charged under oath in a deposition that she had been moved out of her job because of age and gender discrimination. She has since apologized profusely.

She has not however, explicitly recanted her allegations, which were so flaky and unsupported that even her own lawyer said she couldn’t back them up. For the record, this is the statement that Tarantino, who is running for an open seat in the state Assembly, issued:

"Divorce proceedings are deeply personal and often painful events best handled privately. Unfortunately, during the course of an exhausting five and one-half hour deposition by my ex-husband's lawyers, I let my frustrations get the best of me and I made a comment I immediately regretted about my transfer from the Lt. Governor's office. I have felt terrible about it ever since. The transfer was difficult at the time, as was this deposition. I have apologized to the Lt. Governor and hope she will forgive me."

Now, however, she seems to be playing the victim card (again). Or it is being played for her?

Columnist Jessica McBride, writing in the Waukesha Freeman, has issued a passionate cri du coeur on Tarantino’s behalf. (She also posted it on Facebook.) McBride insists that Tarantino is the victim of smear campaign and that someone is using her divorce testimony as political weapon.

This has become an especially nasty race. The political bottom feeding going on is shameful. Anyone who dislikes the politics of personal destruction should vote for Tarantino to send a message about it. Anyone who thinks Republicans shouldn’t tear each other apart in the name of political expediency should, too.

Anyone who thinks that trolling through a woman’s private – and confidential – divorce file is downright creepy should vote for Tarantino, too.

In other words, vote for Tarantino because she is… a victim.

McBride declines to discuss Tarantino’s charge against her former boss (which was disloyal at best, politically toxic at worst) or the fact that the allegation was made under oath. All of this, she argues is “fruit of the poisoned tree.”

And even though you could certainly argue that it was Tarantino who smeared Kleefisch here, McBride absolves her of any blame.

It wasn’t Tarantino who tossed Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Gov. Scott Walker under the bus. The person (or people) involved in leaking Tarantino’s confidential divorce deposition – for their own gain – is responsible for that.

McBride’s point about the use of the divorce testimony has merit: those papers did not leak themselves.  It is also true that Tarantino’s comments were not intended for public consumption And it’s reasonable to speculate they leaked to reporter Dan Bice by someone with either a personal or political axe to grind.

While McBride admits she does not know who leaked the testimony, she has some general ideas.   

Any man, in general, who would leak confidential information to the news media in an attempt to smear the mother of his children and destroy her economic future would be a despicable person indeed.

(We would be remiss if we didn’t note that McBride might be engaging in a tad of projection here.)

In the end, of course, this whole kerfuffle will be resolved by the voters in Waukesha County. But count us as skeptical that they will be moved by the sight of a conservative candidate playing the victim card.


Kleefisch is playing the gracious card.

"I agreed to endorse Jeanne in this race long before I learned of her comments, and although I was outraged, I gave her time to realize her error and apologize," says Kleefisch. "She's done both."

But there are, apparently limits to forgiveness in the Kleefisch household.  Her husband, Joel, a state representative, has endorsed one of the candidates running against Tarantino.

"As a veteran state legislator, I know that Ed [Baumann's] charisma, people-skills, drive, determination and problem solving will help move the state of Wisconsin forward," says Joel Kleefisch.


Editor's Note

The Tarantino camp sent us this message:

FYI the article on Tarantino mentions Joel Kleefisch endorsed her opponent. Joel actually offers support to everyone running in the race who asks him for it, and he endorsed Jeanne. He doesn't take sides in primaries (or I guess, he takes all sides...) He also donated to Tarantino. Bice took his original report down because it was incorrect.