The situation that landed 58-year-old Nancy Genovese in jail for four days in 2010 was subject to quite a bit of interpretation on the part of her arresting officer.
The Long Island native might have been taking a picture of a decorative helicopter in the hopes of using it as a feature on a “Support our Troops” website after leaving a rifle range with her legally owned and registered weapon. Or she might have been taking surveillance photographs of the Gabreski Airport at the Westhampton Beach Air National Guard base with a deadly weapon in her car.
Guess which of these interpretations won the day?
Four years after her incarceration, Genovese has been awarded $1.2 million by a federal jury which determined that Suffolk County had falsely prosecuted her. This undue arrest may have been forgivable but for Genovese’s claims that her arresting officer made it clear that he was discriminating against her for her political beliefs.
Southhampton cops searched her and found a legally owned rifle and shotgun that she was transporting from a nearby rifle range. She contends a deputy sheriff arrived on the scene later and said to her, “I bet you are one of those Tea Party people.” When Genovese said she’s gone to Tea Party rallies, he allegedly said, “You’re a real right-winger, aren’t you?” and “You are a ‘Teabagger’” and then added that she’d be arrested for terrorism to make an example of other “right wingers.”
“Ms. Genovese was subjected to a level of abuse because [authorities] did not share the same political views as she did and saw this as an excuse to deny her even the most basic civil rights,” her lawyer Frederick Brewington said.
It seems ludicrous today to profile a middle age woman as a terrorist conspirator, but this was a period in which the Democratic Party and their allies in the media were doing their best to suggest that the Tea Party was a potentially violent group of malcontents. That association culminated in the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by an unstable young man. Despite having no links to the Tea Party, the press and Democratic politicians spent weeks attempting to link Giffords’ shooter to Sarah Palin.
“One thing is clear, Palin, who has been at the center of so much of the political discourse and discussion the last two years, is right back in the center, you might even say the crosshairs, whether she wants to be there or not,” an ABC News report on the absurdly tenuous links between Giffords’ shooting and Palin read.
Many issuing this dubious claim made it clear that their goal was not to purify political discourse, but to shut their opponents up.
“She — as I mentioned, people contributing to this toxic climate — Ms. Palin needs to look at her own behavior,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), “and if she wants to help the public discourse, the best thing she could do is to keep quiet.”
“[S]omething about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence,” Paul Krugman wrote the day after his ill-considered decision to place all the blame for Giffords’ shooting on Palin’s shoulders.
“It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P,” he added.
These figures and others were terrified of the Tea Party because they were portrayed in the press as terrifying. It was only in the autumn of 2011 that Occupy Wall Street showed the media what a truly violent and unruly protest movement looked like, burying forever the narrative that the Tea Party was a pre-riotous mob. In a way, the officer who discriminated against Genovese was a victim himself; he was misled by a biased media that was invested in that narrative.
Good for Genovese that she found some vindication in the courts. Supposedly endemic discrimination by the police is the subject of much hand-wringing on the left today, but Genovese’s exoneration is a story you’re unlikely to see repeated in many mainstream news outlets. For the press to do so, they would have to admit to some complicity in her wrongful arrest. And they cannot have that.