Criticism of your opponents is standard operating procedure in American politics. Names, insulting slogans, subtle comments on their way of life; there are few things that are not up for the firing line of politics. But on Friday, a new low was reached in political discourse. Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt, a Republican, compared the Human Society of the United States investigations of animal cruelty to human trafficking of 17-year-old women and referred to the group's investigations as "tape and rape."
Rep. Holt made the comments in an e-mail exchange over a bill the he has sponsored, the Livestock Cruelty Prevention Act, referred to by opponents as the Ag-Gag Bill. This statement by Holt is only the latest in the controversy that has surrounded the bill.
The statement came in an e-mail exchange that Rep. Holt had with Kayci McLeod of the Humane Society. His response to her claimed the bill will,
"... protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women."
He then concluded his message with:
"I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as "tape and rape." Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it's true intent."
The bill would make it mandatory for anyone who records evidence of animal abuse to turn in photos or unedited video footage of it to law enforcement within 48 hours. Animal rights groups have criticized the bill saying that the short reporting time makes it impossible for a pattern of animal abuse to be clearly documented as part of a larger investigation. But they are not the only groups involved in opposing the bill.
The Tennessee Press Association is also against the legislation. Frank Gibson of the TPA told NWTN Today that the bill would be "a chilling effect on the ability of the mainstream press to investigate cases of suspected animal abuse" and that "it creates a slippery slope toward repealing Tennessee's Reporters Shield Law."
Queen of country music and thus the entire city of Nashville, Carrie Underwood, even weighed in on the bill:
Representative Holt then told the country music superstar, "I would say that if Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I'll stick to lawmaking." Underwood is a resident of Tennessee. She responded to this over Twitter:
And when she heard about the "tape and rape" comments that Holt had made, she sent this tweet to her 1.5 million Twitter followers.
Representative Holt has not responded to press requests for a comment on his remarks. Holt comments should be inexcusable to all even for supporters of the bill. This episode only goes to show the incredibly toxic political discourse that has engulfed American political discourse. It remains to be seen whether Holt will recognize the utter direness of his comments to the public.