Janklow continues poor public relations


Falling in line with a long history of what we can safely call tense relations with the statewide media, Rep. Bill Janklow Monday ran what was billed as a “press conference” but failed to answer any of the most pressing questions on the minds of South Dakotans.

Instead, what the public heard in the former governor’s first address since the August accident for which he is facing a manslaughter charge was a politican using a much publicized event primarily as a public relations tool.

Questions shared by nearly everyone in the state — will the congressman resign his seat?, what does he remember about the tragic accident?, does he regret making light of his driving record? — were often either dismissed as inappropriate to answer at the time or met with apparent annoyance by a politician who is not known for favoring the media.

Infact, a bit of the famed fire in Janklow’s belly flared at the mention of his previous driving violations and the casual attitude he seemed to take toward them earlier in his political career. The governor-turned-congressman resorted to a defense of his driving that involved playing offense against the reporter asking the question. He mentioned having been passed by several news vehicles speeding on the way to state crises in a defiant attempt to demand that only the blameless throw stones against his driving record.

At a time when some in the state are more concerned than ever about Janklow and his ability to represent the state in Washington, the politician would do better to be straight with his constituents than to hide behind excuses and accusations.

At the same time, South Dakota’s media outlets need to continue holding the elected official responsible for his actions, despite cries of a “media circus” from Janklow supporters statewide. Janklow is an elected official and, as such, the news media are justified, if not obligated, to ask questions about matters that clearly have an impact on his life and his role as a legislator.

We can’t let Janklow walk around the questions to tout his past work in Congress when asked about his future there.

We can’t throw him softball questions about whether or not he’s heard from the president or how he feels about supporters at the Moody County Courthouse.

We can’t let the congressman tell us he’s ready for a press conference and then back off the hard questions he knows are coming by citing the high emotion in the case and asserting the inappropriate timing.

While we believe that Janklow is sincerely distraught by motorcyclist Randy Scott’s death, the Congressman’s distress ought not be used indefinitely as a shield from accountability for the questions his constituents are asking.

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