Liberal Democrat critiques conservative legislator forum

Mark Harmon, an activist Democrat, recently attended a panel discussion by five Republican East Tennessee state legislators and has now written a column on his observations. It starts thusly:

“I believe in science. Sorry, I do,” said state Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, to the crowd at a recent legislative forum.

You can tell the conversation has gone in a strange direction when a medical doctor has to apologize for believing in science.

The event was an East Tennessee Legislative Panel in the Bearden Banquet Hall on Aug. 29. The online description indicated the sponsors were Americans for Prosperity (the extreme right-wing Koch brothers group), the Tennessee Liberty Alliance and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tennessee.

The five state legislators, all Republican men, were backed by a banner with a GOP logo. At best this is a “whoops” that shows the lie of AFP’s non-partisan status; at worst it suggests a Federal Elections Commission violation. I videotaped all 100 minutes of the chat and put it online. (Note: YouTube video HERE)

The most outrageous statements came from state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. He blasted away that even some of those “worthless” federal Republicans would not vote for “Obamacare.” Then he passed along some speculation that doctors were getting trips to Hawaii for overprescribing dangerous drugs. The trifecta came when he asserted the lion’s share of vouchers in Florida were going to Muslim schools (for the record, not so).

UPDATE/NOTE: Tori Venable, spokeswoman for American for Prosperity-Tennessee, sends the following “for the record” email after this post:

Our sponsorship of the legislative forum hosted by the TN Liberty Alliance (also non-partisan) consisted of a booth to sign up activists – but that doesn’t fit with Mr. Harmon’s narrative. I’ve been told he and Gloria (Johnson, former Democratic state representative) tweeted false info the whole time.