On twittering debate over ‘paid protesters’ at Haslam speech

Cari Wade Gervin reviews – and makes a stab at debunking – widely-reported contentions that some of the protesters at the state Capitol last week were paid to protest. Excerpt from her Nashville Scene post:

Last Monday, close to a thousand people peacefully protested at the state Capitol during Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address…. After the event, state Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) tweeted, “Despite what the media may report several of the protesters admitted that they had been paid to be at the TN Capitol.

(For earlier reports, see The Tennessean and WZTV-TV for examples. Bailey told WKRN-TV that he learned of the protester payments from a “reliable source” that he was unwilling to reveal for “security reasons.” He also noted there were cars with out-of-state license plates in the state Capitol area and said “one would assume” those might indicate presumed paid protesters.)

Anyway, a couple of days ago, Bailey shared a video to his official Facebook page, seemingly as justification for his laughable claims… (that includes the comment) “And here we have tonight the protesters who came out tonight on private buses. I wonder who paid for those, George Soros.”

… (T)he “paid buses” are actually Nashville Downtown Partnership parking shuttles. And the reason those shuttles were parked at the Capitol last Monday night was not to ferry protesters to and from their cars, but to ferry legislators to and from the Ryman, where Metro lobbyists hosted a reception featuring members of the cast of Nashville. Which means the buses were “paid” — and that money came from the tax dollars of Nashvillians, not billionaire Democratic donor Soros — but it also means that neither (video producer Johnnie Lee) Maynard nor Bailey bothered to read the signage on the buses.

Protests are planned again for Monday afternoon at the Capitol — Tennessee seems to be getting its own Moral Mondays going — and given that the president himself has now been tweeting about “paid protesters,” it seems likely Bailey will soon be joined by a number of other legislators who would rather cling to a fiction that anyone who disagrees with them has to be paid to do so.

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