A Mississippi truth warrior changes jobs

Published 9:34 am Monday, April 16, 2018

The falling political dominoes since Thad Cochran’s Senate retirement have resulted in my old friend Rep. Andy Gipson landing as state agriculture commissioner.

Actually, “old friend” is a bit of a stretch, considering that Gipson and I have never met. But we did correspond last year for a column he inspired, and I have a certain fondness for anyone who provides fodder.

A fondness that only goes so far, of course.

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Gipson’s account of his thoughts when nominated by Gov. Phil Bryant – “This is a bullet that will fit our gun” – struck me as both oddly inappropriate, given the continuing focus on gun violence, and just odd. I’d never heard the saying.

Turns out it’s a shorthand reference to pastors “borrowing,” let’s call it, sermons delivered by other pastors. Various folks have been credited with issuing some version of the license to sponge: “If my bullet fits your gun, shoot it.”

Unattributed borrowings by people in my line of work can get us fired, but pastors are clearly more forgiving when it’s in the service of souls.

Gipson, a Baptist pastor in addition to being a lawyer, might well be familiar with the concept.

He is also a stickler for facts and truth, as he perceives them. Last year, after taking issue with a column (not mine) that he said mischaracterized his reasons for killing a House bill, he formed the Mississippi Responsible Journalism Initiative, to police transgressions.

“Our only goal is to support the return of honest, ethical journalism, and we believe this will help foster the return of civil debate in our state,” Gipson told me then.

I was skeptical for a number of reasons, not least of which is that people don’t care about truth anymore.

But Gipson, undeterred by my counsel, followed through, after a fashion. The result is the Mississippi Truth Journal, which purports to set the record straight with “The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth.”

In four posts this year, it offers these revelations:

Most bills introduced in the Legislature will not become law.

Governor Bryant delivered some REALLY GOOD NEWS in his State of the State address.

The new education formula does not increase taxes.

The suggestion that a certain House bill would “allow guns on campuses and in athletic events” is a “complete fabrication and myth.

Myth, because it’s already legal for the “enhanced carry” licensees the bill addresses, Gipson wrote.

At least I think that’s what he wrote. The style of the Mississippi Truth Journal is somewhat dense. Here’s a paragraph from the education funding post:

“Just as we wouldn’t pay a teacher less money based on how many students were in the classroom on any given day, the state shouldn’t fund districts based on the same logic.”

I challenge anyone to parse that.

Pat Brown, publisher of The Magee Courier, in what was Gipson’s district, is affiliated with Gipson’s truth squad.

“There were comments about media being fake news and I challenged those,” Brown told me in an email. “I made a couple of meetings and was asked to serve on their board.”

Turned out not to be heavy lifting.

“Honestly, there were not a lot of times where he sent materials for review or consideration,” Brown said.

All in all, that’s probably a good thing. And I wish Commissioner Gipson the best of luck in his new job, in which he can perhaps busy himself dispelling the rampant myths about soybeans.

They’re shocking.