Marsha Blackburn, a Republican member of Congress from Tennessee, became the subject of scathing fury over the weekend after a Huffington Post political columnist vilified the 61-year-old woman in a story entitled, “Why This Congresswoman Opposes Effort To End Horrifying Horse Abuse.” The short answer is that Rep. Blackburn has become deeply entwined with the scurrilous “Big Lick” segment of the horse industry and is believed by some to be using her power on Capitol Hill to benefit those who continue to cruelly abuse and sore horses.
The story, written by national columnist Christina Wilkie, told specifically how the Congresswoman was given a $100-per-person reception by the questionable Performance Horse Show Association in August 2013 and received a $70,000 donation during its National Celebration in Shelbyville three months ago. Since then she has railed against House Bill 1518 and has urged her fellow lawmakers to defeat it.
The HuffPost story also revealed the Performance Horse Show Association president at the time – Terry Dotson – had two horses disqualified at the Celebration after each failed inspections and while he resigned just two days later, “Cruella de Blackburn” – as she was called on Sunday by one of well over 2,500 detractors on the website -- came out this week in public defiance of the sweeping reform in the embattled Walking Horse industry.
Ironically, Blackburn is the Vice Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in Washington and this week, when the same committee held hearings on the proposed Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, Blackburn strutted her distain for all to see and has worked all fall to quell HB 1518, which was sponsored this spring by state Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis).
Blackburn’s stance is that “this legislation brings excessive regulatory burdens on the walking horse industry and potentially eliminates the entire industry and thus the breed,” but horsemen and women all over the world know better. Horse shows elsewhere thrive and there is no soring. But in Tennessee there is word that more criminal charges may be forthcoming and the PAST Act would make soring a federal felony instead of a misdemeanor.
As of yesterday, a whopping 233 members of Congress have signed to co-sponsor the popular bill, 160 Democrats and 73 Republicans, but – curiously -- the entire Republican delegation from Tennessee, seven in Congress as well as Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker, are believed to be against the animal protection measures due to their ties with the “Big Lick” organization. (Alexander’s state finance chairman is, in fact, Steven B. Smith, a director of the Walking Horse Breed Registry.)
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The reactions to the HuffPost column were livid. One person wrote, “It is a shame that those horses can't contribute part of their purses to bribing Blackburn. The bill would have a better chance,” while another wrote, “Maybe we should chain and weight Blackburn's hoofs and see how she likes it?” Black Angus Young noted, “What's the point of this and why do they call it an industry or sport? I've never heard of the game before.... you make a horse walk silly and people watch or something? I thought hockey was boring, but even this is enjoyment for some? Why not just watch paint dry?”
Another furious response: “I lived in Tennessee for 3 years. Scary politics and politicians there. They elect people, as obviously indicated above, with little intelligence and even less common sense. Dumbest state politically I have ever witnessed firsthand except for Texas and the Bushes. Somebody put a saddle on her back and "sore" her and I bet she changes her tune, while prancing proudly of course.”
One SuperUser tried to explain, “It is OK to abuse a horse because it makes money. Forget any other motivation. She would oppose the same actions done to a dog, goat, etc. However, horses which have been hurt make money for some of her wealthy contributors. There is a lack of compassion because she is paid to lack compassion and to explain it away. If she agreed with banning soring, she would lose money for her campaigns!”
Another: “I'd bet money that the horses are smarter than the majority of people in Congress.” LMPD added, “This is actually a compromise position for Marsha. Her original position was to require "soring" be done on all food stamp recipients, gay people, atheists, and other commie types. (sarcasm)”
Still another wrote, “Marsha, any of those wonderful and beautiful horses, that you see only as another profit, has more worth to this world in the tip of its tail, then you have in your entire body.” And Eileen Left responded, “Blackburn would support anything that had a lobbyist check attached to it. She is the poster child for ‘get the money out of politics’ and her views cannot be trusted.”
From Tucson: “We are all God's creations and should treat all with dignity and respect. It seems to me that Congresswoman Blackburn is, at best an elitest, in that she looks at these horses not as being worthy of respect, but as tools to profit, and at worst, a hypocrite, as I am sure she would not want to be treated in such a cruel manner.”
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Accompanying the lengthy article on Rep. Blackburn was a HuffPost slide show of 16 of “The Biggest Political Hypocrites” and included were two politicians from Tennessee as well as Georgia’s former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The Tennesseans pictured were former Senator Albert Gore and current Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper).
DesJarlais was pictured hugging his wife and the caption read, “Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) just won a second term despite recent revelations that he had sex with a patient while working as a physician and later urged her to get an abortion. Yet DesJarlais' campaign platform opposed abortion. "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life," his website stated. There’s more. According to transcripts from his 2001 divorce proceedings, released after the election, the congressman and his then-wife made a "mutual" decision for her to have two abortions while they were married.”
It is believed all of Tennessee’s representatives will seek reelection in 2014.