A tale of two candidates


david koroma

Should offensive tweets or Facebook posts made when you’re 20 years old disqualify you from running for public office when you’re 35?

There are many variables that play into whether or not a candidate should step down over inappropriate posts, but the most important factor seems to be the candidate’s response.

This is apparent in the tale of two candidates leading into next month’s provincial election.

On one hand, former Liberal candidate Jamie Hall had some tweets from 2012 resurface where he used the misogynist words, among other things. His apology was seen as a kind of non-apology because he used that old qualifier, “those who were offended,” before going into justifications and explanations for his tweets.

In public relations, we’re taught to keep these kinds of responses sincere and concise — Hall did neither. The Manitoba Liberals dropped him the next morning.

On the other hand, the NDP’s “star candidate” Wab Kinew has had to field some tough questions about his own inappropriate tweets. That includes his choice of words in some rap songs he made when he was 30 years old.

In contrast, Kinew has stated that he is sorry for the vulgar hip-hop lyrics where he celebrated violence toward women and made homophobic slurs. He has not tried to justify his language, but critics say his apology (released in his book “The Reason You Walk”) came far too late and smacks of political opportunism as opposed to genuine regret.

The irony of Kinew’s troubles is that they would not be dogging him if the NDP hadn’t demanded that the Liberals drop Hall. Now they’re being accused of hypocrisy as they continue to defend Kinew from public scrutiny.

As a millennial and political junkie, I’m torn about this. Dumb social media posts should not disqualify young people from running for political office, but every candidate must be held responsible for his or her words.

Hall made an interesting argument when he said he wants to be honest with voters and he does use vulgarity in regular conversations. Perhaps the phrase “politically incorrect” exists for this reason, as Hall came to the conclusion that politics is simply not for him.

Are we now going to bar people from political office based on things they’ve said on social media five years earlier?

Nobody is perfect, but when it comes to social media, recent events have made it clear your profiles better appear squeaky-clean before entering the political arena.

David Koroma has experience working in government and political communications. He is interested in the role citizens play in creating positive change on Canadian stage. Follow David on Twitter @D_A_Koroma.