Idaho representative hurt her own case by demonstrating conduct unbecoming a legislator

·5 min read

Editor’s note: This column has been updated with the decision of the ethics committee. It also has been corrected from an earlier version, removing details of the process in the House of Representatives.

If Rep. Priscilla Giddings was trying to persuade House ethics committee members that she did not engage in conduct unbecoming of a legislator, her testimony and behavior Monday didn’t do her any favors.

By insulting, obfuscating, splitting hairs and dodging answers to simple, straightforward questions, Giddings hurt her own case.

Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman’s opinion editor.
Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman’s opinion editor.

Her supporters could describe Giddings’ answers as “defiant,” but to reasonable people, they were just condescending and evasive, and only served to prove the case against her.

Ethics committee members did the right thing Tuesday and voted unanimously to recommend Giddings be censured and removed from the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee.

Giddings, R-White Bird, shared on her social media and in her official House email newsletter a Redoubt News post that included the identity and a photo of a woman who accused then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of sexual assault.

Plus, she’s accused of giving misleading testimony during an ethics committee investigation of von Ehlinger. When she was asked on April 28 whether she had posted a photo or identity of the accuser, she testified under oath that she had not.

Even though the evidence is clear that Giddings shared the website post that identified the accuser and included her photo, Giddings repeatedly dodged the question.

“Are you aware that that article posted the picture and the name of Jane Doe?” Christopher McCurdy, the lawyer for the ethics committee, asked Giddings.

“You’re asking me if I’m aware that it did have it? Because it no longer has it. So what’s your question?” Giddings responded.

So he tried again, even more straightforward: “Did that article contain the picture and the name of Jane Doe?”

“That I don’t know, because this as I — let’s see — a few hours before that was the first time that the ethics committee requested that her identity be concealed. And it is, was, I say, was brought to my attention that the article concealed her identity as soon as that was publicly requested so considering that I made these statements hours after the committee requested that I would be guessing that, no, when I made the statement, her — except, I think maybe was it Representative Gannon or Crane pulled it up on their computer, as I was speaking, and I think that that’s only going off of my memory so at some point, I think, Redoubt News, but I don’t know, I’m not their editor.”

The short version of that answer should have been: “Yes.”

Giddings quibbled with how a Facebook post looks on different devices, whether she linked to the article or hyperlinked to it, even with the definition of “write.”

“If you look, there’s a post that says, ‘Follow the money, exclamation point. Idaho’s very own Kavanaugh,’” McCurdy pointed out on Giddings’ post. “Did you write that line?”

“I typed it into my Android phone,” Giddings said. “I did not write it.”

It was a breathtaking moment of hubris reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s performance in the Monica Lewinsky episode, when he said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Giddings had other moments of obfuscation and outright hostility, but the topper of them all came when she repeatedly refused to answer whether she still agreed with her testimony on April 28, when she testified under oath that she didn’t post the accuser’s identity or photo.

When McCurdy asked her for a simple yes or no answer, her response was: “Where did you go to law school?”

And it seems that anytime someone on the right is called out on any sort of bad, disgraceful behavior, the retort, as Giddings said Monday, is that it’s just “woke social justice mob rule” and “cancel culture.” Remember, they used the same defense of von Ehlinger when he was accused of sexual assault.

I suppose that’s the kind of stuff that her supporters want to see, as evidenced by the applause Giddings received from some of the audience members.

But I think most of us would identify more with Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, one of the complainants who testified Monday.

“Even when it is a fellow believer in Christ, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard that says we’re going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Yamamoto said when testifying Monday. “And that even though we can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the prudent and right thing to do.”

When asked repeatedly, Yamamoto said she would have withdrawn her name from the complaint and forgiven Giddings if Giddings simply had admitted that she made a mistake.

“I do believe in repentance,” Yamamoto said. “I do believe in redemption. I do believe that when someone has made a mistake, as we all have, that we have a loving God who is more than willing to forgive us for our sins. But we’ve got to be willing to admit when we’ve made a wrong choice, when we’ve made a mistake, and if you own it, and you ask forgiveness, then who are we to not forgive? We should forgive.”

Unfortunately, the person who most needed to hear Yamamoto’s words — Giddings — was absent from the chambers, childishly refusing to participate in the proceedings.

Scott McIntosh is the opinion editor of the Idaho Statesman. You can email him at smcintosh@idahostatesman.com or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcIntosh12.