By Chris Landers
TOWSON – Dressed in his shirtsleeves, tie and black pants, his hair impeccably coifed, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. addressed a group of about 100 Towson University students Tuesday. Many of the students seemed unsure what to expect. Ehrlichs voice broke at times during his rambling presentation, mixing joking good humor with barely concealed pique.
Ehrlich would almost certainly dislike the paragraph you just read.
For starters, it is patterned after the beginning of a Washington Post article – in fact, the last clause is lifted in its entirety – that was one of four newspaper stories on a handout the governor gave communications students in Dr. Richard E Vatz’s persuasion class. The handout was titled “Four Examples of Flawed Media Coverage.”
Vatz, an Ehrlich supporter, has hosted the governor several times as guest speaker to his classes of communications students, including future journalists and public relations professionals. This year, the professor said, “My classes have been unusually Ehrlich-laden.”
Ehrlich urged the students, who have been studying rhetoric, to “think critically – do not take things as they appear to be.”
“The definition of journalism,” Ehrlich said. “Is writing characterized by a direct interpretation of fact or description of events.” Here he raised his voice for emphasis before finishing, “without an attempt at interpretation.”
Which brings us back to the first paragraph of this story.
Ehrlich’s “rambling presentation” could probably be better described as unstructured – he threw the floor open to questions from students that covered a wide range of topics (multiculturalism is still “crap,” although he prefers the words “divisive and dangerous” and religion is under attack in America).
“Joking good humor” and “barely concealed pique,” both phrases borrowed from the Post story, accurately describe the governor’s attitude at Tuesday’s class as he alternated between kidding with students and criticizing the media. Particularly the print media, whom Ehrlich described as trying to discredit him
Citing a story about Democratic staffers attempting to gain access to Lt. Gov. Michael Steele’s credit report, Ehrlich asked students whether the story would have received more ink if the staffers had been Republicans and the official a Democrat. Students were largely silent, but Vatz answered for them.
“If this had been a Democrat, we would still be reading about it,” the professor said.
All of which is why, Ehrlich said, he prefers “unfiltered” personal appearances, like the one Tuesday, to press conferences. He then threw the floor open to “embarrassing questions.”
In response to a question from Vatz about his choice for a running mate to replace Steele, who has announced his own candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Ehrlich responded, “I know and you dont.” Pressed by Vatz, he amended that statement. “I have some ideas,” Ehrlich said, “but just about all the speculation you’ve read in the papers is inaccurate.”