Basic Questions Linger About Barnette as GOP Senate Primary Approaches

Mere hours remain before voters in the Keystone State decide next Tuesday who will represent the GOP for U.S. Senate in the midterms.

On Thursday, well-respected conservative journalist and author Salena Zito (who writes at Washington Examiner and the New York Post) wrote what I think is a crucial story on the primary, though it’s much like the writing you’ll consistently find from her. Not a rah-rah piece meant to boost this or that issue or policy, or the opposite, a takedown meant to discredit anyone who has a different take. But a measured story, with good questions and answers that let voters make up their own minds.

Her subject in this new piece is Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette. And the headline is just as plain-spoken as the article: “Who is Kathy Barnette?” As she writes, “She could be hiding nothing. She could be hiding everything. We don’t know because there are no answers.”

So, which answers does Zito see as incomplete? She writes that she spoke with the campaign and sent via text  “[a] series of questions… about her background for a story that was supposed to be a profile.” But Zito, who has interviewed several of the candidates – both Republican and Democrat – wasn’t able to write the profile because most of them “went unanswered.”

She adds that “[t]he questions….were pretty straightforward and simple.”

The name of her hometown

Where was she an adjunct professor and when?

When was she in officer candidate school?

What financial institutions did she work at and when?

When did she move from Virginia to Pennsylvania? (She says in her book bio from 2018 that she lived in Virginia, so what year did she move to Pennsylvania?)

And a confirmation that the college she graduated from was Troy State University.

The campaign manager did answer one of them, she says, “but that too was vague. When asked about her military service, the answer was: ‘Kathy noted basic training was Fort Dix, Army Reserves.’”

Look over the list again. Pretty basic questions you’d expect to be in any candidate’s publicly available bio, right?

As readers are aware by now, Donald Trump made an endorsement in the Senate primary race–Dr. Mehmet Oz– back in April. RedState wrote on the Oz endorsement, exhaustively covering both the positive and negative aspects of the move in several pieces. Personally, I’m not a fan of Dr. Oz. His now-canceled TV show (and the magazine that cross-promoted it) were world-class quack material. Regardless, on the political merits, I think Trump erred here.

Fast-forward to May. In the first two weeks of the month, Kathy Barnette began showing up on people’s radar — first with a hard-nosed effort against Oz in a debate, then rocketing to a tie for second place with him in new polling.

But several things came to a head over the past few days, starting late in the week. My colleague Bonchie wrote Thursday about Donald Trump surrogate Ric Grenell going after Barnette for some selectively-edited tweets and videos that tried to smear her as a fake conservative, especially on Black Lives Matter.

Also on Thursday, I happened to be tooling around PlutoTV (which streams some BlazeTV content for free), and caught an episode of a condensed version of “The Glenn Beck Radio Show.” I tuned in just as Beck took a break, but teased that he would interview Barnette next.

I wasn’t able to find video of the entire interview (you can watch this closing bit; the full segment starts about 25 minutes into this audio version). But here’s what I heard in the interview with Barnette — and it’s not good.

What I heard was uncalled-for defensiveness, in what couldn’t be a more friendly forum.

How do I mean? Barnette displayed a very ugly trait, a flash of self-righteousness, when mentioning-several times- that she’s been campaigning for about a year. (I’ve heard her variously say, in different videos, 12 and 13 months.)

But this was the worst part. At one point, Beck cited Zito and her list of basic yet unanswered questions, giving Barnette a very easy out and the opportunity to give answers to voters who might be moving in her direction come Tuesday.

That’s when Barnette lashed out at Zito as “disingenuous.” She then had the gall (or the ignorance) to tar the journalist (who I think wrote the definitive book on why Trump won in ’16) as being part of a mob of “outsiders.” I am only guessing here, but that appears to be her label for “enemies.” I have an big issue with that.

The truth is that no one in conservative media is out to get Barnette. Take a look at this news: she picked up another surrogate on Friday. Splashed across social media was a new endorsement from “former Philadelphia Eagle and Trump appointee” Jack Brewer. He praised Barnette in a video (also, coincidentally, in an op-ed at our sister publication Townhall), stating that “Trump got this one wrong.” As you know, I don’t disagree with that.

But, the questions remain. Barnette’s most recent statement (as far as I can tell) was in a video blog she released on Friday. Like in the Beck interview, she uses it to answer some of the allegations floated by Grenell and others who support Oz.

But nowhere in the clip is an attempt to answer the questions Zito and Beck gently put to her and/or her campaign about who she is. It’s a mystery. Instead of responding to conservative media outlets, Barnette gives a stiff arm like an Eagles linebacker. This isn’t a good sign.

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