NOTE: The writer of this article has retracted quoting the wrong Knoxville News-Sentinel article (Oct. 27, 2009) he mistakenly confused with the source the GOP used in the mailer (Jan. 18, 2009). He takes full responsibility for this mistake and apologizes. The Jan. 18, 2009 article he meant to quote has yet to be found.
As Election Day on November 2 approaches, campaign races have become increasingly synonymous with "dirty politics" as opposing candidates try to smear each other. The race for the 7th District of Tennessee's state open chair is particularly heated between Democratic candidate Randy Walker and Republican candidate Stacey Campfield.
Last week, a mailer sent out by the Tennessee GOP on behalf of Stacey Campfield named a University of Tennessee professor as an "anti-war rioter" who contributed money to Walker's campaign. This is the same professor who tackled a gunman at the 2008 Knoxville church shooting which left two churchgoers dead.
In the mailer titled “Money Never Lies,” it claims, “Anti-war rioter dollars. Randy Walker has received hundreds from University of Tennessee professor John Bohstedt, an anti-war protester who the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported, ‘specializes in riots.’ "
When the recently retired UT and Harvard professor learned of the mailer last Wednesday, he immediately found it to be “hilarious” and “foolish”:
"Stacey's mailing that called me a rioter shows how little he understands the University of Tennessee," Bohstedt responded in a phone interview, "And what we do there in teaching and research. If a professor specializes in malaria or heart disease, does that mean that they are in support of malaria or heart disease - that they are a heartworm or mosquito? Of course not."
During his time as a history professor, Bohstedt did indeed specialize in the study of riots – specifically 16th through 19th century European food riots. As for the “anti-war” label, a few years ago he peacefully protested the Iraq War. BIf a professor specializes in malaria or heart disease, does that mean that they are in support of malaria or heart disease – that they are a heart worm or mosquito? Of course not. Professor John Bohstedtohstedt responded to the mailer by writing a letter in good humor, titled "My Life is Complete," and sending it to 293 close friends.
“Honestly I haven’t received a copy of the mailer,” says Representative Stacey Campfield, “I didn’t have anything to do with it. I’ve never heard of the guy until the mailer came out.”
According to Rep. Campfield, he asked for control of the mailers from the Tennessee Republican Party but the state GOP said no. As to whether Bohstedt is an “anti-war rioter”, Campfield said the Tennessee Republican Party must have “googled” him and he assumes the information on the professor from the Knoxville News-Sentinel is correct.
The GOP cites two Knoxville News-Sentinel articles on the mailer as justification for calling Bohstedt a "rioter." One of the articles describes the very questionable findings of an internal investigation done by the Knoxville Police Department as a result of Bohstedt filing a complaint over the bullying conduct of a police officer at the scene of a car accident in January 2006. The accident occurred when a BMW ran a red light and hit another vehicle at an intersection where Bohstedt and a number of demonstrators were peacefully protesting the Iraq War. KPD officer Todd Strickenberger, after arriving at the scene, yelled accusations at the demonstrators for causing the accident. Strickenberger specifically hassled Bohstedt before fining him a $100 citation for impeding traffic when he briefly asked a witness in a parked car if he had been interviewed yet.
When contacted, the Tennessee GOP defended their actions: “This mailer is paid for by the Tennessee Republican Party and we stand by its contents, all of which are properly cited. We fully support Stacey Campfield’s campaign for State Senate and believe he’s the candidate who will best represent this district’s conservative values.”
“For Stacey, it just shows his immaturity for not taking responsibility. Anything with his name on it, he has the responsibility [for it],” Dr. Bohstedt responded. Bohstedt, who is also the Knox County Democratic Party precinct chairman in West Hills, said he has only seen Campfield at the polls – where he wore a bright red t-shirt. According to Bohstedt, this reflects immaturity and an image that he does not want a state senator to have.
The UT professor thinks Campfield is out of touch with education and specifically UT, "For instance, he has pushed legislation to allow professors and students to carry guns on campus - that is absurd. Anyone that understands an university, would not think of such a thing. Stacey's own experience with a real university is debatable."
"The point is this man is unfit to be senator for the University of Tennessee or be spokesperson of the University of Tennessee at the State Senate," Bohstedt continued, "By contrast, Randy Walker is a serious professional. He has decades of experience as a manager of business development at Oak Ridge National Lab. He has a family. He is a churchman and a community builder."
"In other words, Randy Walker - a conservative Democrat - is much more like the voters he represents than Stacey Campfield and finally, Randy Walker would be much more of an asset as a business person to Bill Haslam as governor than Stacey's embarrassing stunts."
"When people are informed of Stacey Campfield, they turn against him. Once they know about Stacey's record of stunts... they are appalled at the idea of him as state senator," concluded UT professor Dr. John Bohstedt.