It was sometime in the winter of 1975 when a couple of Eastern Washington freshman House members started grousing about Adele Ferguson’s acidic description of them in her columns. Those were the days when members of the Capitol Press Corps were granted access to the legislative members-only dining area under the House floor. We ate together, we partied together, and we could keep secrets…thus the free interchange.
Adele had just put up a post in the Bremerton Sun about me that was not flattering (but true), and of course my home town newspaper, the Tri-City Herald picked it up and ran it. She was syndicated all over the state, so Adele was quite a force. Representative Ed Seeberger, D-Yakima, had just been toasted by Ferguson a few days earlier for returning his complimentary subscription to his local paper. Ed felt that since it was free he might feel obligated, but more importantly they had blasted him for a bill he introduced. Adele had written something to the effect that Ed should grow up (yes, she wrote like that) and that if he can be had for the price of newspaper the state was in trouble.
Well, with Ed’s lashing and the slap she had given me we decided it was time to do something. After all we were important “nobody” freshmen legislators and we didn’t have to take this. It got real quiet in the caucus room when I stood and suggested we cancel her dining room privileges in the member’s cafeteria. I was summarily dismissed, and scolded at by my leadership. But the comment that sent Ed Seeberger and Jim Boldt to the Speaker’s office later that day was Ed’s declaration that Adele was unfit to report objectively on all matters, and he referred to her as Adella the Hun.
If you think social media and digitized message sharing moves comments around the capitol today, trust me, when a freshman legislator called Adele Ferguson, “Adella the Hun,” you can double the speed. Before I had walked from the caucus room to my seat on the north edge of the chamber at least three members, a bi-partisan group I should add, warned me that Adele had heard and she was out for us. I, of course, told them to not worry.
After session that afternoon the Sergeant at Arms had told me the Speaker wanted to talk to me. When I got to the office Ed Seeberger was siting on the big brown leather sofa like a school boy in the principal’s office. Then Speaker Sawyer told me to sit down. His message was simple, “You guys had better apologize to Adele or you will have hell to pay for the rest of your short political career.” He went on to share the reality of the power of a respected and hard hitting journalist like Adele.
I don’t remember if Ed apologized, but after about the twentieth legislator encourage me to tell Adele I was sorry, I made my move. I got alone with her in the member’s cafeteria, in the corner, and begged forgiveness. She wore reading glasses on a chain around her neck in those days. She reached down, lifted them to her nose and gave me that harsh look and I thought she was going to walk away. Then she smiled and said “OK.” And she thanked me for talking to her. She also gave me the first of many helpful lessons about politics and media.
I loved her. She made a living and a great profession of putting enough glaze on the truth to make it powerful and long living. Adele did not have network. She was a network.
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