Foot-in-Mouth Museum

By Jeffrey Page

First, a note of thanks to the many Zest readers who took a few minutes to respond to my questions about how the site is doing. Your notes were thoughtful, detailed, helpful and, most of all, encouraging. You say we’re doing a good job and that, for some of you, we’ve become essential reading. Thanks for that.

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Someday there will be a Hall of Fame of Asinine Public Comments and the People Who Utter Them. I hope never to be enshrined myself, preferring to be chairman of the admissions committee.

Here are some recent nominees for glory in the hall.

–It’s 2009, right? New millennium, new century, right? Civil War ended 144 years ago. Voting Rights Act in place since the Sixties, Civil Rights Act about as old. And oh yes, there’s a black fellow sitting in the Oval Office.

Well, it’s not 2009 in Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana where the witless Keith Bardwell presides as justice of the peace. Bardwell is the judge who recently refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, one of whom is black, one of whom is white.

His denial was outrageously un-American enough. Worse was his bizarre reasoning. “I’m not a racist,” Bardwell said. Then, focusing on the children of mixed race couples, Bardwell declared: “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.” How do they suffer? He didn’t say. Put them through what? He didn’t say.

What he said was that he tries to treat everyone equally. And oh yeah, some of his best friends are black.

Humphrey and McKay said they intend to ask the Justice Department to investigate Bardwell’s brand of jurisprudence.

–In Grahamsville, Donald Daggett walked into the Tri-Valley high school packing a .38. This is against the law.

During a talk with the principal, Daggett mentioned that he was armed. The principal asked for the weapon and Daggett handed it over.

What might have happened had a kid seen the butt end of the gun, recalled a place called Columbine, and gone tearing down the corridors to warn classmates and staff that there was a guy with a gun in the school?

“It was a stupid mistake,” The Times Herald-Record quoted Daggett. “I never even thought about it.”

The school thought about it and called the cops. Daggett was arrested. Maybe he’ll think about it next time.

–Roman Polanski, 76, is still in a Swiss jail with U.S. officials seeking his extradition to face charges of having sex with a girl in 1977, when Polanski was 43 and the girl was 13.

A gaggle of Hollywood swells have flocked to Polanski’s defense. Oh come on, they say. It was three decades ago, they say. The girl was sexually experienced, they say. Polanski had a horrific childhood when the Nazis overran Europe, they say. He’s a great director, they say. He won an Oscar, they say. He’s an artist, they say.

Among the newest reasons for going easy on Roman Polanski is money.

His lawyers have appealed to the Swiss courts to ask that Polanski be freed on bail because he has several months more work to do on his latest movie. And if he doesn’‘t get this work done, he could go bankrupt.

Not only that, the attorneys sniff, if Polanski can’t finish the movie, his backers stand to lose $40 million. In keeping him behind bars, it’s likely the Swiss judges recall that Polanski was freed on bail in the United States in 1977 – after pleading guilty – and promptly fled to France, where he has been living ever since.

The legal team’s equating child rape and movie profits is obscene. If you buy the argument that Roman Polanski needs to be free so he can avoid bankruptcy, you might approve the same request from Bernie Madoff. And you wouldn’t do that, right?

Care to join me on the Hall of Fame’s admissions committee? Just drop me a line with the dumbest public comments you’ve come across.

Jeffrey can be reached at


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