The $25 million firing of Bill O’Reilly this week got me thinking about the one time I was on his show, in July 2001.
O’Reilly was a relatively new phenomenon among cable TV talkers in those days, but his power was becoming considerable and his politics were known. I went on anyway.
The reason he wanted me on is that I had written a story that questioned the sincerity of a new effort by Mexico to discourage crossings at the border. To give you a flavor, the story began: “If Mexico really wants to improve its patrols of the U.S. border, as promised Friday, it could start by giving gas money to the Mexican agents in Nogales.”
It went on: “The 13 Grupo Beta agents are supposed to discourage migrants from crossing the border illegally and prevent them from being robbed by bandits.
“But the agents aren’t patrolling as much since they started paying for the patrol vehicles’ gas out of their own pockets.
“The condition of Grupo Beta symbolizes the broader mixed message Mexico is sending about border issues as the United States and Mexico continue high-level negotiations.”
You can see why O’Reilly’s people might have wanted me on — I was questioning Mexico’s stated commitment to reducing border crossings. So I went to the KUAT studios to be on via satellite.
Here was the crazy thing. If O’Reilly had wanted good material from me, all he had to do was ask about the story. Instead, he talked and talked, asking only a few questions. One time, he ended a long ramble by saying, “I don’t think the Mexican government wants to stop this immigration flow at all, am I wrong?”
His bluster flustered me a little, but at least it allowed me the experience of escaping traps and parrying barbs.
Afterward, I got a bunch of angry emails from all over the country, some accusing me of being a liberal, pro-Mexico reporter. It was my first experience with this kind of national online attack that has become so common in recent years. But the funny thing is, O’Reilly could have gotten what he and his viewers wanted if he had just asked the right questions.
CD2 clamor continues
People keep jumping on and off the Democratic Party’s CD2 choo-choo, heading for a collision with GOP Rep. Martha McSally’s campaign train next year.
Among those jumping on this week: Former legislator and Tucson City Council member Bruce Wheeler. He’s already on an exercise regimen, trying to build his endurance for the campaign.
Among those jumping off: Former legislator Victoria Steele. She lost the primary race to another former Dem legislator, Dr. Matt Heinz, last year. Then Heinz lost to McSally. But Heinz may run again.
There are many more. Political novice Billy Kovacs has jumped on, as my colleague Joe Ferguson reported earlier this week. A foreign service officer from here named Joshua Polacheck is considering taking the leap, too. Lou Jordan, a retired U.S. Army colonel who commanded the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Marana, has a Facebook page dedicated to his possible run.
And others are dropping off. Brian Bickel, who ran last year against Ally Miller for Pima County supervisor, had entertained a run in CD2 but has decided not to.
Expect more, many more, before the race shakes out next year.
ICE detainee deported
On April 9, I wrote about the arrest of a Mexican man in Tucson after he was pulled over for a cracked windshield on March 30.
Dario Alvarez Nava had been formally removed from the country four times. Now he’s had a fifth — and it could be the last.
Alvarez Nava was held for a couple of weeks at the Correction Corporation of America’s immigration detention center in Eloy, but then suddenly on Wednesday he accepted my earlier request to be his “friend” on Facebook. We exchanged messages, and he said he’s staying for now in Nogales, Sonora, where he was deported.
He was scared to go back to Mexico, but he said he now has no choice but to return to Guerrero, his home state in southern Mexico. He had fled Guerrero after a brief stint there in 2012 because of threats by local criminal gangs. His girlfriend is planning to join him again.
“I don’t have anywhere else to go,” he wrote to me in Spanish.
Changes for Ducey’s Tucson staff
This week, Gov. Doug Ducey’s office announced some changes that will make more sense of his Southern Arizona operations.
Ducey originally picked Juan Ciscomani to be the director of his Southern Arizona office. Then, as Ducey grew to trust Ciscomani, he added more and more duties, including overseeing the state’s Hermosillo office.
Now, Ducey has shuffled the organizational chart and given Ciscomani and Becky Freeman new titles. Ciscomani is now called Ducey’s senior advisor for regional and international affairs, and he will oversee the Tucson office, the Hermosillo office and the Arizona-Mexico Commission. At some point, the governor will likely appoint a new operations director to run the commission, spokesman Patrick Ptak told me, but for now Ciscomani will play that role.
Becky Freeman, who had been deputy director of the governor’s Tucson office, is taking over the directorship that Ciscomani had held. Freeman is perhaps better known around Tucson as the head coach of Salpointe Catholic High School’s girls’ soccer team, which won the state championship this year.