If you have been reading the political web today, you've probably come across Bob Morris, an Indiana State Representative who has condemned the Girl Scouts as "sexualizing" young girls and molding them into "feminists, lesbians, or Communists." Let's get to know him better. He's only been a legislator since 2010, but long before he ran for office, Morris was often in the local newspapers -- he was good for a quote. Before he turned to politics, he mostly showed up in the press promoting dietary supplements he sold, such as by encouraging high school athletes to take Creatine in 2005. (Why shouldn't they? He did and reported to the the Fort Wayne News Sentinel that it "transformed his body over the past six months into something any high school football player would envy.") That's why you could see Morris's attack on Girl Scouts as a cabal of left-wing lesbians coming. Like other political trolling that comes out of the statehouses every few days (hours?), Morris has been practicing for years. Today's outrage may look like an overnight sensationalist, but he was really years in the making. Welcome to Profiles in Politrolling, our occasional series on the people behind the news outrage of the day.
Background: The impressively-browed Morris, 37, was born in Streator, Illinois, and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1976. He got his bachelor's from Indiana University, and ran a business called Healthkick Nutrition Centers and was no stranger to the news: On October 20, 2001, he told the Fort Wayne News Sentinel's Nancy Nall that he was stocking Healthkick's shelves with Chicago Nutrition Solutronic Silver, which supposedly could protect you from anthrax. "I gargle with it whenever I get a sore throat," Morris said. On April 16, 2005, when the ban was briefly lifted, Morris said he pulled the old ephedra cases back out. "I believe in the product," he told the News Sentinel.
On November 3, 2005, Morris pushed the dubious supplement Creatine on high school athletes. The News Sentinel reported:
He doesn't understand why players would use illegal steroids to enhance performance when he sells natural testosterone boosters, such as Animal Stacker and Muscle Juice.
"All this stuff is legal," he said. "They can use the natural stuff and get the same results A lot of the better high school athletes are using these items to enhance their playing abilities."
Previous Stunts: But Morris did more than sell pills. On November 5, 2005 (the local reporters sure love this guy!) Morris discovered he could get a lot of attention by talking about a national issue -- high gas prices -- in a way that allowed both a local angle and a nice photo. He told the News Sentinel's Doug LeDuc that he started driving his mo-ped four miles to work. "It puts a smile on my face that I can fill that up with just a gallon of gas," he said.
But that wasn't big enough. On August 29, 2006, Morris was again in the Journal Gazette for his gas conservation efforts, a surprisingly lefty cause. He started driving a horse and buggy to work (not shown at left), and pushed for September 8 to be "Who Needs Gas Day."
What I propose is offering these students a scholarship if they want to graduate early. We are going to take that money that the state funds these students from the high school and basically reward them and say, “Here is your money that the state would have spent over the next two or three or four years and you can use that in your post-education, in college.”
Exhibit B: Save money by ending all unemployment insurance, he said in June 2010.
“Nothing in our Constitution says we have to pay a man when he is unemployed,” Morris said, noting that stopping unemployment payments would save billions.
He was the surprise winner of the Republican caucus for the 84th district in August 2010.
Enemies: Other than Girl Scouts, of course, he also hates Planned Parenthood. "Our country needs to get back to basic morality about teaching youth and teaching our kids the consequences, what happens if you have sex outside of marriage," Morris said at an abortion rights rally outside the state capitol in March 2011. He opposes abortion and pre-marital sex, and called the demonstration a "travesty."
Clever Quips: It's really hard to troll the entire U.S. from some state capitol in the heartland if you can't come up with one-liners that sing. Morris is quite talented when it comes to soundbites. Earlier this year, Indiana Republicans wanted to pass a law similar to the one in Florida that requires welfare recipients to get drug tests. Democrats killed it by adding an amendment that would require drug tests for members of the state legislature, too. “I often wonder standing up here whether members are under the influence when we’re debating certain issues," Morris said. Zing!
"I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing."
"[A]bundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood."
"A Girl Scouts of America training program last year used the Planned Parenthood sex education pamphlet 'Happy, Healthy, and Hot.' The pamphlet instructs young girls not to think of sex as 'just about vaginal or anal intercourse.'"
"Boys who decide to claim a 'transgender' or cross-dressing life-style are permitted to become a member of a Girl Scout troop, performing crafts with the girls and participate in overnight and camping activities – just like any real girl."
"Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists."
"The fact that the Honorary President of Girl Scouts of America is Michelle Obama, and the Obamas are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda of Planned Parenthood, should give each of us reason to pause before our individual or collective endorsement of the organization."
Success rate: Pretty good. Morris's anti-Girl Scouts letter has been picked up all over the place: NBC, NPR, Fox, Comedy Central, New York Daily News, plus tons of blogs, like Gawker, and Jezebel, not to mention the British news-of-the-weird specialist Daily Mail. Planned Parenthood responded in one of his local newspapers, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, saying, "It was disappointing to read Rep. Morris' inflammatory, misleading, woefully inaccurate and harmful words about Planned Parenthood, the Girl Scouts of America, and the President and First Lady." Not bad, Morris, but if you want to reach the big leagues of politrolling, you need something new to keep the momentum going. May we suggest a moderate amount of web-based research?