Media hands not bloody over Dan Johnson’s death

This column is about being selfish, hurtful… and getting away with it.

It’s about someone whose wife claims was “always so happy and giving, and generous.” That’s according to her WDRB interview less than 24 hours after state Rep. Dan Johnson’s suicide. It is also about someone who found amusement in images that portrayed former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as monkeys. Such a generous racist… how very sad.

Give me a break.

This piece is about Johnson, who allegedly killed himself after an article exposed an allegation of sexual assault involving a member of his church — a church that proudly displays the Confederate flag and where hymns are sung with guns drawn.

Should we feel bad for him? I don’t think so.

Maybe a bit for his family, but as I am someone who supports the victims of sexual assault, his demise is not sad at all. It is cowardly and narcissistic.

Was he trying to make himself a martyr? To stain liberals and the media or his alleged victim? It’s all very strange.

He referenced his Second Amendment rights when he said, “If they go crazy, we gotta have something to be crazier with.”

Certainly, he seems to have fulfilled his prophecy.

When elected to office, your job is to serve your constituents, not just those who share your beliefs. Johnson might have served some of Bullitt County — I’m sure there are like-minded folks there — but he certainly did not serve it well, or represent it fairly or appropriately. When his racism, and then his abuses were exposed, Johnson ended his life and left a lot of folks without a resolution. At least that’s how it seems.

His behavior speaks for itself. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” —Matthew 7:19-20.

In the days following the accusations, he was not behaving like a man at the end of his rope, though perhaps he truly was. He was behaving like a person consumed by his ego and not concerned about the feelings or needs of others.

Kentucky Democrats asked him to resign. His own party asked him to resign. He boldly refused. Instead, he held a press conference, sang “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” claimed the accusations were not true and doubled-down on his plan to run for reelection.

“It seems there is a lot of people willing to jump to judgment without any proof,” Johnson added. “If that’s the case, Frankfort might have a lot of empty seats if it runs off of just accusations,” Johnson said.

On Wednesday, he was dead.

“This city has lost a good man,” Johnson’s wife Rebecca Johnson, told a reporter with WHAS11. “And just because he is not liberal, he’s not a Democrat, he’s not a certain religion, he’s not a certain race, he’s been attacked. He’s been attacked for his faith. And that’s a shame.”

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His death is a shame, but not for those reasons. He wasn’t attacked. He was caught. He was caught with racist imagery and caught when the allegations of sexual abuse surfaced. He was exposed, reprimanded and he reacted like a brat. This seems to be a trend in politics.

Has Roy Moore conceded, yet?

I refuse to pretend to mourn his death, but not because he wasn’t a liberal or was evangelical or white.

Frankly, his death saved the state a lot of money and gave Bullitt County a reprieve. It seems callous to say, but so was his suicide.

Gov. Matt Bevin tweeted: “Would ask sincerely that all the nasty, vulgar comments & other despicable responses to the news of KY Representative Dan Johnson’s death be kept in the minds and hearts of those who have them… Don’t share… Please have respect for his family and friends at this time… Thank you.”

Sure Bev, but here’s the thing: America lets too many transgressions slide under the guise of propriety, forgiveness and whatever other value triggered by the dogma on which we’re reared. I’m not concerned with those dogmas here. I am concerned about what the evidence shows and, on the evening following his death, as I was writing, it showed me a selfish person who couldn’t bear the consequences of his own making. It showed me a man who when he painted himself into a corner took the simple exit.

And since Johnson’s wife, Rebecca, announced less than a day after his death that she would run to fill his seat in the legislature — an oddly-timed move, considering the situation and the violent nature of it — I’m even less inclined to care that he’s gone. I just want it all to add up.

Her rapid announcement feels like the equivalent of one ego seeking to replace another. It doesn’t appear to be about the people of Bullitt County, but it should be.

State Rep. Wesley Morgan, a Madison Republican, tweeted, in part, “Media,  @KyDems and especially @KYGOP should be ashamed of itself.”

Rebecca Johnson told Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting journalists working on “The Pope’s Long Con,” “We know what you’re going to do. And you’re going to have blood on your hands. I’m telling you now, it’s the word of the Lord.”

She also blasted the media and liberals again the day after his death — as if they pulled the trigger. He’s no champion, no persecuted lamb. He is definitely no martyr.

Maybe the Lord drew up Johnson’s last day as a suicide, but the journalists had a duty to write about him, an elected official. They most definitely do not have blood on their hands. According to the accusations, the only hands that seemed dirty were Johnson’s. Per the KyCIR piece, they went to a place they did not belong.

The shock of Johnson’s suicide will fade for those of us who didn’t know him beyond his outlandish actions as a public figure. His context will become clearer, and maybe, in light of his wife’s decision to run for his seat, the story may get a bit stranger.

There are those who will mourn because, for sure, any life lived is one that had value. I may not see that same value, but he has children, friends and a host of others who might. For them, I feel compassion, I really do; but, like the KyCIR journalists, my duty is to speak to the community when their interests are not being tended.

Johnson did not tend the interests of his community, and his loss could very well be their gain. •

About the Author

Media hands not bloody over Dan Johnson’s death

Erica Rucker is a professional freelance content and copywriter who also teaches English at IU Southeast. In addition to LEO, her work has appeared in The Ptolemaic Terrascope, The Guide, Foxy Digitalis, Insider Louisville and Norton Healthcare’s Get Healthy magazine. You can follow Erica on Twitter, but beware of honesty, occasional outrage and nerdy live-tweeting.

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