Wingnut of the Week: Larry Pittman

As I said in a post yesterday, it’s not appropriate to take notice of every nutty right-wing statement made by a conservative state legislator somewhere in America. There’s just too much of it after the 2010 elections, and it’s hard to tell how much of it reflects serious patterns rather than random crazy people lifted very temporarily to public office by an electoral wave that will eventualy carry them back out to sea.

So to avoid the temptation of posting about this stuff constantly, I’ve decided to institute a Wingnut of the Week feature that will honor some exemplary figure who has emerged from the fever swamps and frightened or entertained us all. From several worthy possibilities, I’ve decided the inaugural honoree has to be Rep. Larry Pittman of North Carolina, who spoke for many righteous (or self-righteous) people in calling for a return to public hangings. Apparently angered by a public letter from a death row inmate boasting of his continuing ability to live and breathe, Pittman said in an email to his colleagues:

If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have the deterrent effect upon them. For my money, we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.

Well, that’s nice, and a real contribution, BTW, to the debate over abortion policy. Why mess with harassment of abortion providers when you can just string them up in front of cheering crowds, eh?

In his defense, Pittman said he only intended to send the email to a single colleague, and hit “Reply All” by accident. We’ve all done that, of course, though not all of us have expressed lethal intentions in such emails.

But what clinched “Wingnut of the Week” for Pittman in my book was how he describes himself in his official bio: “pastor, shipping worker, company chaplain.”

After all, nothing quite proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ like a public execution.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.