Column: Arguments over ballot arguments; Sacha Baron Cohen satirizes Dana Rohrabacher

Is “real” news weirder than “fake” news?

Take the spat between Newport Beach activist Bob Rush and former Newport Beach mayors Keith Curry, Rush Hill and Mike Henn and former Mayor Pro Tem Jean Watt over whose statement should be used against an as-yet-unnamed measure slated for the November ballot.

For the record:
2:00 AM, Jul. 27, 2018

An earlier version of this column reported that Jean Watt is 92. She is 91.

The measure, if passed, would require 55% of voters to approve a city charter amendment before the city can use a special type of financing — certificates of participation — for projects costing $50 million or more.

Rush was quoted in a Daily Pilot story saying critics could “kiss my ass.”


The online comment thread — which I verified with those who made the comments — got crazier, with Curry calling Rush “a failed Democrat Assembly candidate who recently made the crazy assertion the city had an ‘enemies list,’ and [is] a `shill’ for [political consultant] Dave Ellis and Councilman Scott Peotter.”

Rush fired back, disparaging Curry and his “friends.”

I felt this was especially disrespectful as it pertained to Watt, a well-respected 91-year-old advocate.

On Wednesday, Rush explained that his reference in the comment thread was meant for Hill, Curry and Henn, not Watt, as he had no idea she was involved.


Rush isn’t the only one Curry has a bone to pick with.

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker is another.

Candidates have until Aug. 10 to pull official papers to run for City Council, yet the O.C. Republican Central Committee this week endorsed incumbent Newport council members Scott Peotter, Kevin Muldoon and Diane Dixon and Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield.

This didn’t sit well with Curry, a staunch Republican.

Curry wondered in a July 22 email to Whitaker whether endorsements were made before “Duffield and Peotter voted for a property tax increase of up to $4,500 per year.”

Curry pointed out “the city operating budget is now $56.5 million higher and the unfunded pension liability is $70 million higher than when Peotter, Duffield and Muldoon took office.”

“I wanted to make sure you had all the facts so that you don’t embarrass the party by saying they are ‘anti-tax,’ for ‘cutting spending,’ ‘supportive of transparent voter rights,’ they are ‘for strong law enforcement’ or that ‘they stand up to tax raisers like [recalled state Sen.] Josh Newman.’ Because the facts tell a different story.”

Whitaker’s answer?


“They filled out questionnaires and got 32 signatures each to go directly to the Central Committee,” he wrote to Curry. “That happened at our June meeting. They met the bylaw requirements and got a unanimous vote.”

What about Dixon? Did she really agree at the Central Committee meeting to endorse her fellow incumbents, if asked?

When we spoke last, she explained her intention was to wait until after the Aug. 10 filing date before endorsing.

Last April, Dixon publicly chastised her fellow incumbents, calling out their alleged behind-the-scenes antics to pressure Newport City Manager Dave Kiff to leave before the end of his contract. I gave her kudos for championing the truth and felt she certainly heightened her political profile with this move, distancing herself from “Team Newport.”

Now her party feels she needs to lend this positive profile to those same incumbents with an endorsement.

Will she?

“I am a lifelong Republican,” Dixon wrote in an email. “I sought and obtained the Republican Party endorsement in 2014. I independently requested the endorsement again for my reelection in 2018. I support Republicans running for office in the November election.”

That statement didn’t really answer my question.


Rohrabacher appears on Showtime spoof

Then there’s Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s appearance on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime series, “Who is America?”

The Costa Mesa Republican appeared to embarrass himself by apparently agreeing with the pretense of arming children as a way to reduce school shootings.

Watching the satirical series’ trailer, it’s obvious to me that Cohen is heavily made up, and his accent is so off I can’t imagine anyone taking him seriously.

Rohrabacher, in a statement, called the show “false news” and said he was never interviewed by Cohen and that the editing inaccurately made it look like he supported arming schoolchildren.

“Cohen’s people apparently used footage from an interview I submitted to earlier this year for a bogus Israeli television company supposedly celebrating the country’s 70th anniversary,” according to his statement. “In that interview, which was not with Cohen, I spoke broadly of training young people at a responsible age in self-defense. At no time did I endorse training toddlers in handling guns.”

I find it funny that Rohrabacher and his handlers fell for this whole “false news” bit and yet they’re dancing around on agreeing to attend a Feet to the Fire candidates forum Sept. 2 with actual journalists.

This week, Rohrabacher spokesman Michael Schroeder said he couldn’t schedule a date two months out and that they were still going through many forum requests. They “may” accept the F2F invitation at the last minute.

I feel Rohrabacher is afraid to face the real journalists of F2F, as well as his opponent, Democrat Harley Rouda, who has accepted the invitation.

Will Rohrabacher ever answer some tough questions this election season? Or just look for a friendlier forum?

Barbara Venezia is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at