Let's stipulate that I have been a strong critic of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
But there was a time when our differences were tempered by personal regard (at least my regard for him). We've known each other for more than 20 years and I once named him one of the "Best Legislators." I supported him in his first race for mayor and he was a guest on my annual Insight show as recently as 2011. For years, my personal relations with Barrett were reasonably cordial (if tempered by our political differences.)
Then this happened.
Last May 21, in the days leading up to the recall election, I gave Mayor Barrett a chance to distance himself from the unhinged bile flowing from his party's chief spokesman, Graeme Zielinski.
In an open letter on my blog, I detailed Zileinski's ravings... including his personal attacks on my involvement with events honoring veterans.
Among the nearly 20 tweets on the subject that day, many were framed as rhetorical questions, such as "DEAR WISCONSIN: Your Governor, @GovWalker, may be bankrolling the criminal defense of a top @WisGOP who tried to rape underage boys."
The most jarring message was this one:
"@MarkBellingShow, @JerryBaderShow, liar@SykesCharlie, @VickiMcKenna-you guys shud hold fundraiser 4 @GovWalker defense of boy rape."
The tweet, in which Zielinski attempts to draw several conservative radio talk show hosts into the fray, flatly states Walker is defending someone accused of a sex assault involving a child. Indeed, the way it was stated it could be read as if Walker has taken a broader position in defense of "boy rape."
Graeme Zielinski@gjzielinski Liar @SykesCharlie was CENTRAL to the @GovWalker's pals scheme to rob from veterans. Happy Memorial Day, @620WTMJ.
As you may know this station and my show have played a central role in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flights, which flies WWII vets to see their memorial in Washington, D.C..
I expect you to denounce this slander and to ask for an official apology from the DPW.
I suppose I can be accused of naivete for thinking that he would break with his party spokesman this close to the election. But at least part of me thought that his innate decency would surface, since Zielinski had crossed the line so dramatically and dishonestly.