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EDITORIAL: Singing like a hillbilly

“You got to have smelt a lot of horse manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.”

-Hank Williams


***

An unmistakable odor wafted from Washington into Loudoun County last week.

The disclosure of text messages between FBI agents who were involved a relationship ignited a new round of conspiracy theories that demeaned residents of the county.

“Loudon (sic) is being gentrified, but it's still largely ignorant hillbillys [sic],” FBI agent Peter Strzok texted FBI attorney Lisa Page. “Good for her for running, but curious if she's energized or never again.”

The text apparently refers to Loudouners who voted against Jill McCabe, the wife of then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Jill McCabe, the medical director for pediatric services at Inova Loudoun Hospital, ran and lost a 2015 campaign for state Senate against incumbent Republican Dick Black. The McCabes live in Ashburn.

The text message is undeniably disparaging, but it’s not exactly the smoking gun that discredits the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Still, some partisans regard it as nothing less than evidence of a conspiracy by the FBI and Washington elitists against President Trump.

The text was regarded as so important by Fox News that it invited Loudoun Supervisor Geary Higgins (R) to defend Loudoun’s reputation on national TV.

No disrespect to Higgins, but we would have preferred a citizen who better represents the achievements and aspirations of a diverse county. Perhaps a Czech-born neuroscientist from Janelia Research Campus. Or the first African-American woman to attain a net worth of at least $1 billion. Or a Vietnamese-American technologist who’s developing a “Smart City” around the Ashburn Metro Station. Or the first woman to become secretary of state. All can be found in Loudoun.

But Fox gave us political misdirection and the supervisor who represents the rural Catoctin district of the county.

“I think people laugh it off,” Higgins said, addressing the hillbilly comment. “They figure this is what is going on inside the beltway, it's a shame. Loudoun County is a great place to live, and I don't understand why people want to assume things they don't know anything about.”

We don't entirely disagree with the supervisor – laughing off a snarky remark that’s lifted from a private text between an FBI couple is an appropriate response to the hillbilly comment. But it’s the part about people wanting to “assume things they don’t understand” that gets complicated in Loudoun.

Partisans contend that Strzok’s text message discloses bias in the FBI that undermines investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. They assume that since the McCabes are married, then-deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe was compromised. A $500,000 campaign contribution to Jill McCabe from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee is cited as further evidence of bias since McAuliffe is a friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Political misdirection is at the core of an odorous campaign to discredit two Loudoun citizens long engaged in public service to the community. Power couples are not uncommon in the Capitol District, which can bring accomplished people together in unexpected ways. It is politics at its ugliest that demeans them for the crime of being human as they engage in civic service.

The hillbilly comment should remind us to be more concerned with character than reputation. Character is the mental and moral quality of an individual. Reputation is merely what others think.

There’s no need to dignify a snarky text message that besmirches Loudouners. We must, however, decry unfounded attacks on the character of people in our county who are dedicated to keeping us safe, healing our children and engaging in public service.

There’s only one lesson from sticking a nose in horse manure. It stinks.

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