Three freshmen Republican congressmen from Washington state scrambled to explain Tuesday how a national magazine tricked them into answering questions about kissing on the first date, Hillary Clinton’s looks and “Beverly Hills 90210.”
Reps. Richard “Doc” Hastings, Randy Tate and Jack Metcalf offered insights on those and other topics last month to a reporter seeking interviews for “Republican Beat,” supposedly a new magazine for conservative teenagers.
The reporters actually work for Spy magazine, which managed to catch the three along with 19 other publicityeager freshmen in the hoax.
Spy reporters Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory sent all 73 Republican freshmen a letter requesting interviews for “Republican Beat.” The first tip-off that it was a hoax was the name they used on the letter - Matthew Fielding. That’s the name of a gay character on the “Melrose Place” TV show.
In Fielding’s name, Huyck and Gregory asked questions such as:
“Do you think Hillary Clinton is pretty?”
“How long should teenagers date before they go ‘all the way?”’
“What do you think is better - ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ or “Melrose Place’?”
Tate answered the question about the first lady in a backhanded way.
“Yeah, yeah … pretty liberal,” Spy quoted him as saying. “Actually, Hillary Clinton is an attractive lady, but she is pretty liberal.”
Said Metcalf: “Yes, she’s attractive. Great speaker. I’ve heard her speak and my wife has heard her speak twice. Great speaker. I don’t agree with what she says, but she says it well and so does he (President Clinton).”
Metcalf was conservative in his advice on sex and dating.
“I think they should wait until they get married,” he said. “Abstinence is the only way to go. It works every time it’s tried, as Rush Limbaugh would say.”
Metcalf said teenagers should be chaperoned until they turn 16.
“I would say you go all the way in marriage and anything else is a bad judgment and a personal disaster,” he said. “What causes teenage pregnancies all over that we’re worried about is unchaperoned kids.”
Asked about Metcalf’s comments, his press secretary, Kevin McDermott, said: “That’s Jack Metcalf for you. It could have been a lot worse.”
Tate had trouble answering who is his favorite band or singer.
“Hold on - let me ask my wife,” Spy quotes him as saying.
The magazine hits newsstands next week, but was featured Tuesday in the Washington Post.
It was “the talk of the Hill all day,” said Ken Lisaius, press secretary to Rep. George Nethercutt, one of three Washington state freshmen who didn’t take the bait.
Neither did Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho.
“This morning I said, ‘God, I remember seeing this,”’ Lisaius recalled. “Fortunately, we smelled something funny.”
Lisaius recognized the reporter’s name as bogus. Not because he watches “Melrose Place,” he was quick to add. “My roommates are avid fans.”
Tate’s press secretary, Ron Reese, said the request sounded legitimate at the time.
“The congressman thought some of the questions were a little strange, but if you take into context what we thought the audience was, it didn’t seem that unusual,” Reese said.
Others were even less amused.
“We get a couple hundred calls a day in this office from people who claim to be reporters, and now we realize some are outright liars,” said Ed Cassidy, press secretary for Hastings.
“If the day ever comes when we have to run background checks on everyone, it would probably just be easier to stop answering the phone,” Cassidy said.
Huyck and Gregory, who spent Tuesday answering a steady stream of calls from reporters, paused briefly to critique their victims’ performances.
Of Tate, dubbed “Rockin’ Randy” by the pair, Huyck said, “He is the least hip young Republican I’ve ever talked to. He’s a young guy. He should have a favorite band.”