Bob Bezotte is so well known in this community that a friendly roast was held in Brighton two years ago, at which over 200 people attended in honor of the retired Livingston County Sheriff.
This was no humble gathering; it was a who’s who of movers and shakers on the local political scene, including state Sen. Joe Hune, state representatives Lana Theis and Hank Vaupel, judges, prosecutors, and prominent members of Michigan’s law enforcement community. All of them were there to honor Bezotte’s 33-year career as a law enforcement officer in Livingston County.
The Livingston Daily covered the event with the headline: “Toasted, roasted: Sheriff touted for honesty, integrity.”
Bezotte is a Republican who now represents District 6 — my district — on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. He drew some bad press recently when it was shown that he had shared a meme on his public Facebook page that referred to two black, Democratic congresswomen (US Rep. Maxine Waters of California and US Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida) as “despicable hags” that should be “trown [sic] out off [sic] congress.”
The question of why Bezotte was so offended by these two women remains unclear, because, let’s face it — sharing a post calling two women despicable hags isn’t exactly a clearly articulated political opinion as much as it is some kind of knee-jerk reaction. Besides the fact that we don’t “trow” people out of Congress (we vote them out because, democracy), calling someone a hag is more like any one of a myriad of female-centric, shallow insults an insecure man, with only a vague sense of why he believes what he believes, might throw at a woman because he is intimidated and upset by her not doing whatever thing he thinks she should be doing. I don’t think there are many women walking around today who have managed to escape that experience in one form or another.
The story of Bezotte’s meme sharing drew media attention from radio to print to television after a group of people (myself included) showed up to confront Bezotte at the Dec. 4 Livingston County Board of Commissioner meeting held on the day the meme was discovered. We did it because — as society is quickly coming around to realize, thanks to headlines on bad male behavior — a slander on one of us is a slander on all of us, as far as a majority of women are concerned.
Bezotte’s immediate response to us was to openly deny he posted it, interrupting Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier to call her a “liar” during call-to-the-public. Then he continued his ridiculous charade by suggesting that perhaps county IT resources should be used to investigate a possible hack to his Facebook account.
During the initial reporting the day after the meeting, Bezotte changed his story, telling WHMI he probably posted it, but he didn’t realize he had done so. It wasn’t until more media got involved that this pillar of honesty and integrity in the community finally fessed up and non-apologetically admitted he did post it, and then tried to paint himself as the victim of a politically-motivated “ambush.”
To hear Bezotte explain it, he’s just a friendly, lovable public servant who wants everybody to get along and be nice to each other, who thinks all the vitriol in politics has gotten out of hand, and — oh — he just so happens to post inflammatory memes like those calling women he doesn’t agree with “despicable hags” from time to time. Ok, ok maaaaaybe he can see why some people might take offense to the word hag, he told Steve Garagiola of Click-On-Detroit after he finally pressed him on it. For that he was sorry. He told The Livingston Daily he planned to take the post down.
It’s still up.
Judging from the rest of the content on Bezotte’s Facebook wall, I can only gather that he was angry with Waters and Wilson for not showing enough deference to President Trump. At the time of the initial post in late October, Trump had enmeshed himself in yet another scandal du jour — this time being accused by the widow of a fallen soldier, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, of being callous toward her husband’s sacrifice in a condolence call. Trump’s predictable response to that was to start an argument with the Gold Star widow and double down on the insults toward Waters and Wilson, who supported her, particularly Wilson who was present for the call.
Maybe at some point Bezotte can use his feed to say in his own words, rather than spouting off some tasteless meme, why he might find women who come to the defense of a grieved war widow so offensive as to justify a slur over a respectful, articulated statement. As a leader in this community, I think it’s important to hear his actual viewpoint.
And this gets to why it still matters.
Yes, it matters that Bezotte lied in a public forum to his constituents that he didn’t post that meme. It matters that he smeared someone else as a liar when he knew better because she didn’t share his political views. And it matters that he has yet to apologize. It matters that the only likely reason he accepted responsibility was because he had no choice once the story received attention outside that board room. It matters that he said he would take it down, but hasn’t.
These are the facts of the situation, and it’s all bad. There isn’t a single justifiable excuse under the sun for any public official to act this way before their constituents.
But there’s more to it.
The most important reason is because, as I mentioned earlier — Bob Bezotte is held up as an example of what it means to have honesty and integrity in this community, and it is his duty as a public servant to represent the people of District 6 with honesty and integrity.
Integrity is one of those traits where either you have it or you don’t. It’s not a costume you put on and take off when it suits you. The very act of integrity is to have a code, a good code, and to stick to it — even when people who don’t appreciate what it means to have a code want you to come join the low road and get more Facebook likes. A man with a good code doesn’t care about Facebook likes.
Bob Bezotte doesn’t just speak for himself. He speaks for everyone in his district, and I am one of those people. If he cannot show basic respect for people who disagree with him — if he cannot articulate a point of view without sharing empty-headed memes that resort to slander and name-calling, he isn’t just making himself look like an idiot — he is making everyone in his district look like idiots because we are the ones who put him in that seat.
Take the post down, Bob.
If you really want people to start treating each other more respectfully across political lines like you said, then it starts with you.
Note: You can watch footage of the Dec. 4 Livingston County Board of Commissioners meeting here. The next general meeting of the board is Monday, Dec. 18.