Friday, October 25, 2013

Another Doug Gansler Beach Week Photo Emerges as Underage Drinking Debate Goes National // Twerking, Tweets & Analysis

UPDATE:  Will this ever end??  In a blistering TV segment today, WJLA reports that two women who attended the beach week party are now disputing Gansler's claims. They are claiming that: beer and hard alcohol were being visibly consumed, the house reeked of beer, Gansler was taking photos, and he was there for more than a minute:

ORIGINAL POST: Yesterday Maryland Juice discussed the crazy new story from The Baltimore Sun breaking news that gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler was photographed at a wild party with rampant underage drinking and allegations of up to $50,000 of property damage. Below we provide multiple updates and analyses of the controversy, including a new photo from the beach week party, a response from Gansler, several national media stories, and some more serious pro/con analysis toward the end of the post. It should be noted that this story has gone viral, and in the course of a single 24-hour-period, it is now on Maryland Juice's list of our all-time top five read posts. Annoyingly, the Gansler story bumped our report on Delegate Sam Arora's marriage equality flip-flop out of our "top five" list.

JUICE #1: ABC NEWS RELEASES ANOTHER DOUG GANSLER BEACH WEEK PHOTO // ATTORNEY GENERAL WATCHING A TWERKING SHOW? - Yesterday, ABC News ran a national story on Doug Gansler's spring break party controversy. But towards the end of their TV segment, they published yet another photo of the Attorney General at the underage beach week party. I don't know about you, but in this second party pic, it looks like Gansler is watching the table-top twerking show (I guess it would be hard not to be distracted by the sight of this going on):

Maryland Juice is going to admit how lame he sometimes is on pop-culture, as I had not heard of the term "twerking" until Miley Cyrus pushed the word into the national consciousness with her own dance performance last summer (photo from The Guardian):

Now here's the instant replay if you missed it the first time (Note: we added the yellow circles to the ABC news screencap):

Gansler Beach Week Photo 1.0
JUICE #2: GANSLER ADDRESSES BEACH WEEK DRINKING CONTROVERSY AT PRESS CONFERENCE // MEDIA DISSECTS HIS RESPONSES - Shortly after the release of The Baltimore Sun's expose on Gansler's beach week cameo, his campaign announced a press conference to address the controversy.

The Washington Post carried video coverage of the well-attended event, as well as some post-press conference commentary. In the video segment below, one reporter pretty aggressively confronted Gansler with a copy of the original beach week photo.

But in his comments, Gansler suggested he maybe should've acted differently, maintained he didn't know what was in the red Solo cups ("Kool Aid" perhaps?), denied knowing how to take photos with his phone at the time, and more:

Maryland Juice watched yesterday as the story went viral, and media figures from around the nation started weighing in. But some of the more interesting commentary has come from journalists within the Beltway region. The Washington Post's team of reporters have had much to say about this story, and today their blogger Clinton Yates wrote:
CLINTON YATES (VIA WASHINGTON POST): I don't have a huge problem with Doug Gansler, but what he did yesterday was intellectually bogus. Yesterday, after a photo was published that showed him at a Delaware house party, he held a presser. He pointed out that it's not really his job to police what goes on at Beach Week, because it's in Delaware. Personally, I don't take a major stance against his decision. Professionally, however, it was not a smart move to enter that place.
The Washington Post's Aaron Blake called Gansler's press conference "one of the more jaw-dropping and torturous political press conferences in recent memory." He then pulled a few Tweets from journalists covering Gansler's responses to the controversy. I screencapped a few of Blake's selections below:

And below you can see a back and forth about Gansler's press conference between The Washington Post's local politics editor Amy Gardner and the paper's political blogger Chris Cilizza of The Fix:

Indeed, Chris Cillizza followed-up on Amy Gardner's suggestion by re-posting his list of "The Fix’s best/worst political scandal press conferences" and suggested Gansler's inclusion on a list that includes Elliott Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Jim McGreevey, Anthony Weiner, and Mark Sanford. Oy vey!

JUICE #3: ONLINE MEDIA FIGURES DEFEND DOUG GANSLER'S PARENTING DECISIONS - While the raucous nature of Doug Gansler's beach week photos captured the attention of the national news media, a few voices have defended the Attorney General's parenting decisions. called Doug Gansler "Maryland's Coolest Dad," while a more serious piece on talked about responsible parenting regarding teenage drinking (excerpt below):
SLATE.COM: If his explanation is accurate, the plain fact is that Gansler and the other parents who helped organize their kids’ trip to the Eastern Shore were being entirely sensible. A group of parents rented a house for their sons the week after high school graduation—Beach Week, in Maryland schools parlance—and laid out an extremely well-thought-out set of rules for the boys....

There is of course a 100 percent chance that teenagers at Beach Week are going to drink and be idiots. As a parent, there are three ways to handle this situation: You can, understandably, forbid your children from attending at all. On the other side of the scale, you can just send your children off to Ocean City and hope their common sense will keep them out of trouble. Or you can make the tactical decision to oversee the festivities and keep things from getting out of hand: keep kids off the road, keep them out of each other’s pants, and keep them from doing shots. Would that all parents of teens were so “permissive”!....

Now of course there are things that are sort of damaging about the story. There’s the bum optics of Gansler and his fellow parents’ being rich enough to pony up for a very nice beach house for their fancy private-school kids.... And then there’s the photo itself, which is of course mortifying....

But it’s a nontroversy. Penalize Gansler because you don’t like his policies, or because he rubs you the wrong way, or because he apparently loves telling state troopers driving him around to run red lights. Don’t penalize him for being a sensible parent.
The Baltimore Sun also ran a column from Kristine Henry asking, "what would you have done?" (excerpt below):
KRISTINE HENRY (VIA BALTIMORE SUN): I still can't decide if I'm outraged or nonplussed.... I don’t really want to say that I’m not sure what I would have done in that situation because that basically means admitting that if my kids were at a party where I had reason to suspect there was underage drinking, I might look the other way. And that would make me a horrible mom, right?...

Do you become That Parent, the one who’s super strict and known as a killjoy and who embarrasses his 19-year-old by pulling him out of a party because some people are drinking beer?.... So, now that I’ve admitted I’m not sure if I’m a drag or an enabler, tell me: What do you think Gansler should have done? And is it what you would have done, too, or does he need to be better than us?
If you're curious about the parenting decisions made by Gansler, The Washington Post published a list of "rules" for the Beach Week party established by the group of parents who rented the house for their kids (Note: hard liquor was prohibited, but no rules about beer & wine):

For what it's worth, many news outlets have been juxtaposing Gansler's beach week defense with a public service announcement (PSA) he taped a few weeks before the party, cautioning parents on teenage drinking. But one upshot to the controversy is that Gansler's PSA on teenage drinking now has over 37,000 views! UPDATE: The PSA has now been made private and is not viewable on YouTube.

JUICE #4: BEACH HOUSE OWNER ALLEGES $50,000 OF DAMAGE BUT GANSLER SAYS IT WAS BURGLARS // MARYLAND JUICE DISSECTS THE POLICE REPORT - One under-discussed aspect to the story is that the Beach Week party in question may not have been just fun and games. The original Baltimore Sun report alleges that the owner of the house was left with $50,000 of damage that nobody has taken responsibility for (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Two days after the party, however, the house was in bad shape. Julie Barnes, who has for years cleaned the home after renters, said she arrived on June 15 to find the wooden floors rippled from moisture damage, dents that appeared to be made from high heels on the bar and pool table, and floors sticky from what smelled like beer. According to minutes of a South Bethany Town Council meeting where the vandalism was discussed, the house sustained about $50,000 worth of damage.

Police who investigated did not place blame on the Landon group and classified the damage as likely the result of a burglary that occurred sometime between Friday evening and Saturday when Barnes arrived to clean. The Landon group turned in their keys Friday afternoon, parents said....

Gansler said the parents assume that someone broke in and trashed the house after the boys checked out. "Apparently, the night before, the parents who were chaperoning it kicked kids out" because it was getting too crowded, Gansler said. "The thought was [the damage] was so malicious that they were trying to get revenge or back at the parents who were chaperoning for kicking them out...."
ANALYSIS OF THE POLICE REPORT: Based on a copy of the "burglary" police report published by The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Juice thinks the idea that there was a burglary does not pass the straight face test. First, the police report indicates there was no forced entry into the beach house and theorizes that whoever caused the damage entered the house with a keypad code or because the house was left unlocked. Second, the only stolen item listed on the police report is a $50 "duck decoy." That is not exactly the type of item selected by burglars who are looking to fence stolen merchandise. They usually go for things you can easily sell on eBay or Craiglist (eg: bikes, computers, flat screen TV's, and iPods). A cheap duck decoy sounds like the kind of thing a wasted teenager would take, rather than a professional thief. Lastly, the police report indicates the house sustained damaged glass shower doors. Did the "burglars" decide to have a rock and roll moment before fleeing the scene of the crime? I flagged these unusual notations on the police report below:

Who should be responsible for the damage under this set of facts: the homeowner or the parents that rented a beach house to a bunch of teens, while witnessing a week of raging parties?

JUICE #5: THE JOKES BEGIN // TWO AMUSING TAKES ON THE DOUG GANSLER CONTROVERSY - I have to admit that I've begun feeling a little bad for Gansler. To be clear, much of what he's being accused of is not exactly a capital crime. But even still, I can't help but crack a grin at some of the media hilarity emanating from this story. Jay Leno weighed in on the controversy last night, and yesterday The Washington City Paper responded snarkily to the Gansler photo story with a series of joking memes placing Gansler in several famous but fictional wild parties. Here's their meme with Gansler in a scene from the film Superbad:

The Atlantic also got in on the joking with an article today headlined, "How to Spot Underage Drinking: A Guide for Doug Gansler" (excerpt below):
ATLANTIC: Here, from a fresh college grad to parents out there, are the obvious signs of a party Gansler missed that could have saved him from criticism.
  • Red solo cups: As Toby Keith so delicately sang, the red solo cup is a staple of cheap American beer at houseparties. "There could be Kool-Aid in the red cups," Gansler posited to reporters, "but there's probably beer in the red cups." Probably is probably an understatement.
  • Grinding/twerking: Butt-on-lap grinding doesn't necessarily have to include alcohol; for kids these days, it could be at a pre-teen bar-mitzvah. But when that twerking is on top of a table? That's a good sign people have left sobriety behind. 
  • Beer pong table: Speaking of that table, it's in a perfect spot and the perfect length for a game of beer pong. Any centrally located tables should set off some drinking alarms. 
  • Male shirtlessness: As soon as the first drink goes down, bros love to take their shirts off. There are four shirtless guys in this photo — that's more than enough to start asking questions. 
  • American flag shorts: Even advertisers hoping to increase sign-ups for Obamacare knew that American flag shorts were a staple of young drinking bros. 
  • Hands in the air: Raised arms, the staple of awkward, drunk teens trying to dance, are in full glory in both photos.

JUICE #6: GANSLER SEEKS TO MOVE PAST BEACH WEEK STORY IN AN EMAIL BLAST TODAY - For what it's worth, Gansler is attempting to move past this latest controversy with a sort of mea culpa in an email blast today:

I am not known to mince words. For better or worse, I am not a smooth talking politician who scripts every word.

But when I make a mistake I own up to it.

The fact is that as a parent of a 19-year old, I face the same issues as many of you. How do we get it right? How do we draw the balance between helping our college teenagers make good choices and when to pull them back? You try to always make the best decisions. In this case, maybe I should have done something differently.

It has been heartening to hear from so many of you who have had similar personal experiences with these issues.

Despite the distractions Jolene and I have been focused on getting things done for the people of Maryland.

You may have missed it among the other stories this week but The Baltimore Sun also reported that a developer is backing off a plan that would have destroyed part of the University of Maryland golf course.

On Tuesday, we gathered with concerned community leaders and elected officials asking the University to save this valuable green space and focus on rebuilding and improving Route 1 leading into College Park.  Our voices were heard. Now we will work together to make Route 1 an attractive and efficient gateway to the University of Maryland.

Like we did in Prince George's County, Jolene and I will deliver for the people of Maryland.

Thanks for your support,



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