Letters to the Editor

Unfair to make mockery of Greene

When U.S. Senate nominee Alvin Greene accidentally and inexplicably won the June Democratic primary, many - and I was among them - blamed Greene's opponent, the Democratic Party and, yes, the media for not having shed more light on this unknown candidate.

His win was so improbable that media from across the country - and world - rushed to learn about the enigmatic Greene, who went from not being covered at all to receiving more coverage than any other politician in the state except gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley.

As a journalist, I guess I should be satisfied; light is finally being shined on Greene. So why am I not? Why does practically every news report on Greene now make me cringe and wish that the media would back off and Greene would return to the silent campaigning that helped him stumble into a primary win?

While it was quite appropriate for reporters and news agencies to learn as much as possible about Greene and share it with the public, I think we found out all we needed to know pretty quickly. Practically everyone recognized early on that Greene has some serious limitations; some suspect the problem is developmental or mental. He shouldn't hold public office.

But some members of the media are at least pretending to cover Greene as if he's any other candidate on the trail, even showing up at so-called campaign events as if they're expecting him to become an eloquent, focused politician with a serious message and making a serious challenge.

That's not going to happen. Ever had a hair-brained idea or dream about doing something that, however noble, was so far-fetched that you knew you couldn't attain it? And you never tried, because you knew that you had no chance of pulling it off - or that if you did, you wouldn't be able to handle it?

Alvin Greene went where you wouldn't dare. And he achieved something he simply isn't prepared for and can't handle.

I don't know whether he knows that or not. Most of us do, even those who claim they intend to vote for him.

Every serious journalist knows what they're going to get from Greene. What are they really after when they travel to his home, trail him to an adult day care or invite him into the studio?

It appears to me now that some are simply out to get the weirdest Alvin Greene story, and that bothers me. More and more, all we're reminded of is his shortcomings.

Greene put himself in this position by asking voters to elect him as one of South Carolina's two representatives in the 100-person U.S. Senate. A military veteran without a job and little money, one who has never run for office before, plunks down $10,000 of what apparently was his own cash to file for the U.S. Senate. He doesn't campaign, doesn't advertise, doesn't have a Web site and defeats a former judge and legislator. On top of that, Greene recently was indicted on two obscenity-related charges; he was accused of showing a pornographic image to a University of South Carolina student last November.

But let's be real. Greene isn't a threat to unseat Sen. Jim DeMint.

Not everyone has presented Greene in a bad light. State senior writer Wayne Washington has written tasteful, probative stories about Greene that told the candidate's story, challenged him to explain his positions and informed the public.

But there are more examples of coverage that appears to have devolved into unnecessary public ridicule of Greene. How does making someone who clearly is challenged and isn't a real challenger for office look like a buffoon benefit the public?

Take for example what happened when Greene ordered a TV reporter off of his property. When the reporter stopped briefly to talk with Greene's brother, Greene began howling and wailing the words, "no" and "go." That became the story: Listen to the howls of Alvin Greene.

When Greene did an interview at a Charlotte radio station, the host played a rap called "Alvin Greene on the Scene" as Greene danced. "Now you're biting your lower lip there, Alvin," the host said as Greene danced. "You're looking like a white guy at a wedding, biting your lower lip there. Knock that off; you can't do that." Greene adjusts his lip. "There you go." And there it went all over the Web and TV.

This just doesn't feel right on some level.

Yes, Greene is fair game.

Should the media just ignore Greene? No. But we don't have to make a mockery of him either.

Contact Bolton, a columnist for The (Columbia) State, at wbolton@thestate.com.