We hate gutter politics as much as anyone. It is, at least in part, the reason this nation is saddled with the politicians it has. The political system chews up the weak and deters some of our brightest citizens from entering politics.
That being said, we also believe our politicians should be men and women of good character. Given that, it is not gutter politics when the media report on a legitimate story concerning the poor judgment of a political candidate.
Enter Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
Fitzgerald is the Democratic gubernatorial candidate trying to unseat incumbent Gov. John Kasich. His campaign has not been going so well. A July 30 poll from Quinnipiac University showed him trailing by 12 points. In that same poll, 55 percent of respondents in Northeast Ohio said they had not heard enough of him to express whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. This despite the fact that he is the top elected official in Greater Cleveland, a position he has held since 2011.
On Friday, a story broke about a 2012 incident in which police officers found the married Fitzgerald and an Irish woman, Joanne Grehan, alone in a parked car.
At about 4:30 a.m. Oct. 13, 2012, an electrician working in an office park in Westlake, called police to report a parked red Ford with two people in it.
“I don’t know if they’re having sex in the parking lot or what they’re doing here,” the caller said.
Fitzgerald told the police officer that he and Grehan were just talking. As the officer said when he called back to the station, “This was a county guy. He had part of a delegation from Ireland with him. … I guess there was a delegation from Ireland in town and he was just taking them back to the hotel and he just stopped and was talking.”
At a news conference Friday, Fitzgerald elaborated and said he was simply taking the Irish woman back to her hotel and became lost. Fitzgerald then accused the Kasich camp of gutter politics.
The reality is, this is a legitimate news story. Fitzgerald compounded the problem with his weak responses that do not pass the sniff test.
Fitzgerald said he and another driver, Nate Kelly, Fitzgerald’s deputy chief of staff for economic development, agreed to drive the Irish delegation to their hotels. There were six members of the delegation. Are we to believe Fitzgerald took one and the other five went with Kelly?
However, Kelly disputes that claim. Kelly said he stayed behind with the delegation while Fitzgerald and the Irish woman left the bar they were all at.
Fitzgerald then somehow got lost looking for the hotel. Are we really to believe the man who runs the county was lost just a few miles from home?
But it gets even better. After getting off the interstate, Fitzgerald pulls into a secluded parking lot. He did so after passing several other obvious parking lots for the secluded one.
And then he said there are no phone records of him calling for directions because Grehan was the one calling for directions. That also makes no sense. He is the native and the driver, why would she be calling for directions? And would she even have a cellphone that worked in this country?
These are all legitimate media questions and not, as Fitzgerald wants us to believe, “gutter politics” by the Kasich camp. After all, it wasn’t Kasich who put Fitzgerald in that secluded parking lot at 4:30 a.m. with a woman who was not his wife. Innocent or not, a politician who wants to be governor should know better.