Black Hills blogger Bob Ellis bleats that Governor Dennis Daugaard has betrayed the Republican Party by criticizing Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City). To support this claim, Ellis points to a letter to the editor in which Glenn T. Freeman of Kadoka accused the Governor of issuing a "pro-gay rant" in the March 20 Rapid City Journal.

Whoa—if anyone in South Dakota is making a "pro-gay rant," I want to hear it!

Roll the tape, and let's review what Governor Daugaard said in response to Senator Jenson's controversial statement in defense of the Ku Klux Klan against government civil rights enforcement. First, here's the statement Senator Jensen made:

Jensen goes so far as to say that businesses should have the right to deny service based on a customer's race or religion – whether that's right or wrong, he says, can be fairly addressed by the free market, not the government.

"If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks, and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them," he said [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Phil Jensen: South Dakota's Most Conservative Lawmaker?"Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.16].

...and here's the Governor's response, four days later:

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Wednesday distanced himself from Jensen in a statement released to the media.

“I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values," he said. "I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does” [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Governor Distances Himself from State Senator's Ku Klux Klan Remark," Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.20].

And here's Glenn T. Freeman's interpretation of the Governor's text:

Daugaard's anti-business, liberal, pro-gay position clearly shows Republican insiders shift to the left. Our political party has deserted many of the faithful.

Daugaard is unique. I cannot recall any previous governor who has so brutally used the bully pulpit of South Dakota's highest office to seek political destruction of elected fellow Republicans [Glenn T. Freeman, letter to the editor, Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.28].

Hmm... the context and the headline make clear that the Governor was addressing Senator Jensen's KKK remark. Only the most extreme gay panic can lead Freeman and Ellis to interpret the Governor's response to Jensen's buffoonery as a "brutal" "pro-gay rant." I'd better not invite Freeman and Ellis over for hot dogs; they'll probably cry rape!

As I've noted with disdain before, Governor Daugaard's criticism of Senator Jensen feels more like a political safety dance than any flowering commitment to civil rights for homosexuals. The Governor offered no commentary on Senator Jensen's holy anti-gay crusade during the Legislative session; only after legislators went home did he hazard even muted criticism of the session's headline-grabbing but abortive homophobia.

Glenn T. Freeman and Bob Ellis are hearing things. Governor Dennis Daugaard has never issued a "pro-gay rant". His criticism of Senator Phil Jensen is far from "brutal"... and not being brutal in response to Jensen's retrograde politics betrays principles more important than the planks in the Republican platform.