Friday, January 28, 2011

Akin Gump Partner Learns that If You Can't Say Anything Nice, Don't Say Anything at All.

My grandfather always warned me never to talk about politics or religion.  Nevertheless, if you read the Nutmeg Lawyer, you know I often dabble a little in politics. I readily admit I have poked fun at Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin,  Glenn Beck and people who believe the president is a Muslim born Kenyan who wants to kill senior citizens.  I poked fun at right wing bloggers who believed that the President demanded applause from the audience through the jumbotron at the Tuscon memorial service (It was closed captioning of course). Despite my childish heckling, I would always take pause before posting my thoughts.  Would I alienate a reader who thought Sarah Palin was wonderful?  Even worse, what if one of my clients had spent $150 to buy superseeds for an Armageddon garden from Glenn Beck sponsor Survival Seed Bank and then stumbled across my post on the subject?  Perhaps my fears were not unwarranted.

Originally blogging under the pseudonym "Deacon", Attorney Paul Mirengoff recently learned what Thumper meant when he said "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." The Washington DC attorney co-authors the right leaning "Powerline."  Popular among conservatives, the blog is written by three attorneys that attended Dartmouth together.  If you recall the name, it gained some notoriety by reporting on the Killian documents controversy regarding George Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.  The eventual outcome would lead to the resignation of Dan Rather.  Other Powerline posts appear to be your basic run of the mill lighter fair and rants about liberals.  Unfortunately, one of those rants landed Attorney Mirengoff in hot water.  Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with his obsession with posting about soccer.

Dr. Carlos Gonzales
If you recall the Tucson memorial for the Arizona shooting victims, the proceedings were open with a Pascua Yaqui prayer from Dr. Carlos Gonzales, a Native American Professor at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine.  The opening didn't sit well with Mirengoff and he decided to post his thoughts on the subject.  It got a little "ugly."

As for the "ugly," I'm afraid I must cite the opening "prayer" by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to "the creator" but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.
But it wasn't just Gonzales's prayer that was "ugly" under the circumstances. Before he ever got to the prayer, Gonzales provided us with a mini-auto biography and made several references to Mexico, the country from which (he informed us) his family came to Arizona in the mid 19th century. I'm not sure why Gonzales felt that Mexico needed to intrude into this service, but I have an idea. In any event, the invocation could have used more God, less Mexico, and less Carlos Gonzales.

Now, I am a strong believer in the First Amendment. While I found his comments reprehensible, I believe you basically have the right to say anything you want.  After all, the Constitution guarantees you the right to be a jackass; just don't yell fire in the movies.  For me, the issue was one of taste, civility and common sense.  Using the eloquent words of Sarah Palin, perhaps this was just "WTF" moment for the beleaguered barrister.  

The problem is Mirengoff is a partner in the prestigious white shoe firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld which counts many Native American Tribes as their clients. Fellow firm partner James Megesto did not take kindly to the rant and firm quickly scrambled to make apologies.  

According to the Careerist blog Megesto stated "As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff. . . . As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation

Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. . . . "

Mirengoff made his own apology on Powerline:
"In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales, who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post."
I can't imagine what this has done for Mirgenoff's reputation at the firm. You don't want to be considered the weird "smelly kid" in class that no one wants to sit with in the cafeteria.  Hopefully, he will put this episode behind him and will take more care in his future posts.  
(Editors note: Special thanks to Twitter follower BleuZOOm)

1 comment:

Corinne A. Tampas said...

As a child of the 1960s, I frequently remind myself "what goes around, comes around". This dude has some bad Karma!