Heyl: Futules repentant? (Bleep) no
What Nick Futules said on Tuesday seems unlikely to enhance his reputation as a political orator.
The brief remarks the Allegheny County councilman uttered won't do for him what the Gettysburg Address did for Abraham Lincoln. They might even get him banned from speaking at any future Rotary Club or Toastmasters International gatherings.
But there's no denying they packed an emotional wallop.
Futules experienced a mercurial meltdown at the end of a contentious meeting in which council agreed to permit natural gas drilling at Deer Lakes Park. After voting in favor of the measure, the Oakmont Democrat got into a verbal confrontation with drilling opponent Ken Weir.
It went like this: Futules instructed Weir to shut up.
Futules then said, “(Expletive) you.”
Weir indicated he hadn't properly heard the statement.
Hoping to clear up any confusion, Futules said, “Capital (expletive) you.”
Weir indicated he now understood. Futules left the room.
It wasn't your everyday elected official-constituent exchange.
Even at the national level, politicians are prone to use salty language — some occasionally, others reflexively. Vice President Joe Biden has a well-earned reputation for having a potty mouth and has publicly dropped the F-bomb; his predecessor, Dick Cheney, once delivered to Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont anatomically impossible advice in profane format. On the Senate floor, no less.
But politicians seldom direct profanity toward ordinary folk. Doing so indicates a potentially politically harmful lack of respect for the electorate.
The only local politician I can recall willing to take that risk was the late state Rep. Frank Gigliotti of Brookline, who once famously said, “(Expletive) the people.” But Gigliotti had the good sense to say that, not in public, but on a wiretap shortly before going to prison for accepting bribes.
Does Futules anticipate any fallout from his outburst? At the risk of being called a (vulgar expletive), (extremely vulgar expletive) or (extremely vulgar polysyllabic expletive) for inquiring, I phoned him to find out.
“Any long-term effects? No, I don't think so,” he said. “I've actually been getting phone calls and texts from people complimenting me for standing up for myself.”
Presumably, they aren't coming from that (expletive) Weir and his fellow (expletive) drilling opponents.
Futules said he lost his temper after hours of debate on the drilling issue and after Weir began yelling at two other council members. He admitted his choice of words could have been better.
“I've been an elected official for 15 years — eight years (on) Verona council, seven at the county. Not once have I disrespected anyone,” he said. “I blew up.”
Is Futules sorry the flare-up featured the F-word?
“I apologize to the public, but not to (Weir),” he said. “He doesn't deserve an apology.”
That's what he said. I swear.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.