Opinion

Deitch: The real problem with Heather Kass’ endorsement by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee

By February 19, 2020 No Comments

allegheny county democrats trump

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

The chair of the Allegheny County Democratic committee held a press conference today in which she and Pittsburgh City Councilor Anthony Coghill defended the recent endorsement of apparent Trump Supporter and social media train wreck Heather Kass. In fact, Coghill, told the media that “people should give her a break at this point.”

Full disclosure, the Pittsburgh Current was not at the press gathering because our invitation was apparently lost in the email. Despite repeated texts to the committee chair and executive director for comment since Sunday’s endorsement, they must have thought we didn’t want to be there. But no worries. Thanks to Twitter and a thoughtful live stream from Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam (who was forced to sit outside the gathering), I was able to follow along.

I assume if you’re reading this then you know the situation that occurred this past Sunday.The Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed a candidate who made comments on Facebook ranging from support of Trump to a wish that drug addicts would OD so there was “less shit in the world.” She beat opponent Jesica Benham 49-19 in a South Hills District that has supported conservative “Democrat” Harry Readshaw for 20 years. We have certainly written plenty about it here and here when we broke the story last month. And as a further point of background, the endorsement involves any candidate seeking an endorsement to write a non-refundable check totaling several thousand dollars depending on the race.

There have been several main issues with the coverage of this story, especially since Sunday. A lot of attention has been paid to whether or not Kass is a Trump supporter. That’s important, don’t get me wrong. There has been a lot of talk and evidence about whether there are Trump supporters among the committee rank and file. 

Again, this is important but it’s not the story here.  And it’s not really why people are mad. The story here is the way that Heather Kass spoke about people, not issues. As Coghill pointed out Wednesday afternoon, Kass apologized. She did the whole, “I was in a bad place several years ago,” deal but she didn’t address all of her comments. She said she doesn’t want to be chained to her past. And that’s the line that ACDC Chair Eileen Kelly and Coghill were throwing around earlier today.

But is five years ago really that long ago when you talk about wanting addicts to OD because the world would be a better place? Is it that long ago when you rant about people on public assistance being lazy idiots? I say no. You may have a different opinion. But what about what she posted last fall when she reposted something about the stupidity of needle exchange programs? Or last summer when she not only made fun of people who wanted common-sense gun laws, but she belittled gender identity and trans individuals?

Also from last summer is this post that I found and haven’t published until now. This was a post by Kass in June, apparently a picture she took, of her husband with his hand up the pants of an inflatable gorilla. Listen we’ve all done immature things, but under the picture Heather Kass’ husband writes that he was doing a “Trump” and had to “grab her by the pussy.”

At the time this story broke, I did check out Kass’ husband’s page (which is now private). Heather Kass denies she supports Trump, but  you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that Kass’ husband doesn’t. I have screen shots from his page, but haven’t printed them yet. And for those who are preparing to say that a candidate should’t be held responsible for their spouse, please refer to the 2016 debate when Trump invited women who accused Bill Clinton of inappropriate conduct to sit in the audience. Also, on Wednesday, Coghill said that voters in the 36th might not like that Benham is seen with someone like progressive state rep. Summer Lee. And as asinine as that sounds, Coghill obviously thinks who your friends are and who you support is important.

But like I said earlier, Trump isn’t the most important issue in this case. However, thiss post from July 2019 — a photo posted by Kass with commentary from her husband, clearly makes light of sexual assault and echoes Trump’s laissez-faire attitude toward it. 

The fact that ACDC officials refuse to admit that is problematic. It is a process run by dinosaurs who can’t spell the word progress. Need proof? Well, Coghill did try to connect Lee and Benham because he thought somehow it was a bad thing to have ties to a progressive, outspoken, yet still effective state rep. And then there’s this from the Twitter account of WESA’s Chris Potter:

Wait, what? Did the chair of the ACDC compare a decade-long struggle with addiction to someone shooting their mouth off that all addicts should OD? Yes, she did. That further goes to the cluelessness of the people running this show. Bethany Hallam went through a long, agonizing process to get herself not only clean but back on her feet. Any forgiveness given to Hallam had to do with the people in her life. She didn’t ask the public to forgive her in the form of a seat on county council. That line of dialog is disgusting, short-sighted and ignorant. It brings into question Kelly’s ability to lead this party.

And don’t take my word for it. Pittsburgh City Councilor Bruce Kraus wasn’t happy about Kelly’s comments regarding Hallam. “The statement made about Bethany Hallam that we’ve forgiven her for her addiction so we shoud also forgive Heather Kass …” Kraus said. “Fighting and recovering from addiction is not something anyone needs to be forgiven for. It’s a medical , mental and spiritual condition. As a recovering alcoholic and addict … I’m still in recovery and I’ve been able to live a life that is clean and sober by the grace of god. Bethany Hallam nor anyone else needs to be forgiven for fighting their addiction.”

Kraus is right, forgiveness has nothing to do with any of this. The only thing in question is a system that would endorse a candidate like this and leadership that sees no problem with that. It’s a system that exists only to be a financial windfall for the party. Because apparently the only vetting the party does before handing out endorsements is making sure your check clears.

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