Op-Ed

County leaders overreact to candidate's bad jokes

As Eastern Kentuckians, we were initially more perturbed than we are now when news broke about one Democratic candidate's now much-aligned comedy bit about toothless, inbred Appalachians.

What Robert Farmer, who is running for commissioner of agriculture, may not realize is that these sorts of stereotypes he used to make a few people laugh are a touchy subject for those of us here in central Appalachia who have been the butt of so many jokes in years past. We can't speak for everyone here in Eastern Kentucky, but we're more than sick and tired of them.

We assumed the reaction to Farmer's old routine would be harsh, and it certainly was. Even Daniel Logsdon, the chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, denounced the "comedy" as inappropriate, as well he should have. But perhaps the most harsh rebuke came from several county judge-executives, Pike County's Wayne Rutherford chief among them, who declared Farmer is no longer welcome in their counties.

Wait. Really? So, because of a few terrible jokes that got a few laughs in Indiana, Farmer is no longer welcome in Eastern Kentucky? Letcher County Judge-Executive Jim Ward went so far as to say he couldn't guarantee Farmer's safety were he to visit Letcher County.

Were these county judges to apply this same logic to any number of people who have shed negative light upon our region, there would be a number of individuals no longer welcome in the mountains, from Jay Leno to Diane Sawyer. But, alas, there have been no pronouncements of potential physicality or banishment for these people.

Only Farmer, a candidate whose win in the May primary election was seen by many as a result in large part due to his last name being the same as the current commissioner of agriculture. Now, somehow, he rates high enough to earn a good swift kick in the pants out the door?

We do rather like how Knott County Judge-Executive Randy Thompson handled a request for comment from WYMT-TV. Thompson, a Republican, said while many people may not vote for Farmer, they can at least forgive him and move on. If only a few of Thompson's colleagues had the same type of magnanimity, we'd be much better off.

Shame on judges like Rutherford, Harvey Richardson and Jim Ward. Here in Eastern Kentucky we've been beaten up, spit on and dragged through the mud quite a bit. But this is the first time in memory when the response from the region's elected officials made us feel somewhat sorry for the defendant.

And though we can't speak for everyone, if Farmer wants to come to Perry County, we're sure that his money still spends just like it did before. We've got some nice places of lodging, some nice restaurants and even some nice opportunities for shopping here in Hazard.

If Pikeville, Jackson or Whitesburg don't want any of Farmer's money, we're sure the Hazard vendors will take it all the same.

And when they do, we're also quite sure they'll be wearing shoes, their parents won't be related, and they'll greet him with a smile full of teeth.

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