Blazing Parody or Not?

by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

Georgia is in the news again concerning the Ku Klux Klan.  But unlike the recent story where the KKK were denied the right to adopt a stretch of highway, the current scandal surrounds Roger Garrison.  Garrison is a 30 year law enforcement veteran and is currently running for re-election as Sheriff of Cherokee County, a position he has held for the last 20 years. The issue is a photograph of Garrison at a 1985 costume party obtained from an anonymous source by WSBT television reporter, Jodie Fleischer. The costumes of choice? KKK robes and hoods.  (Picture below the fold.)

Image from WSBT, used without permission.

Garrison has claimed that he and a friend were dressed as characters from a scene in the movie “Blazing Saddles” and that he has never espoused any of the KKK’s beliefs.

From the picture, it is impossible to tell if the robes had the same “Have A Nice Day” smiley face logos on the back like the ones in the Mel Brooks comedy classic, but they do bear the Knights Cross emblem long used by the KKK on the front. Garrison told the Cherokee Tribune “This is by no means a reflection upon my career… or personal beliefs,” Garrison said. “It was a simple, childish Halloween costume party — nothing more, nothing less.” He also blamed the release of the photos on his opposition in the current election, David Waters, a commander with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. “It appears Mr. Waters has sent those photos to the Atlanta media and asked for stories,” Garrison said. “I’m deeply appalled he would stoop to this level (and) that he chooses not to stick to the issues.” Willing to up the ante of “moral outrage”, the Cherokee Tribune is also reporting that Garrison said he found it especially appalling Waters was trying to make a moral judgement  when Waters has been married five times. “(He) is not one to be throwing stones at other people,” Garrison said. “It’s clearly an act of desperation on his part and I believe that the voters will respond accordingly. They’re sick of that type of campaigning.” After asserting the Mel Brooks defense of his actions, Garrison also told WSBT’s Jodie Fleischer, “I don’t deny it wasn’t stupid, looking back now, but there again I say what 21- or 22-year-old in this world hasn’t made some stupid mistakes?”

Is this case of parody gone wrong? Youthful indiscretion run amok?

Or should the photo be considered a valid campaign issue?

What do you think?

Source(s): Huffington Post,, Cherokee

~submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

33 thoughts on “Blazing Parody or Not?”

  1. I am seeing the Grand Wizard make the appearance. Now Dance boy, dance when you are spoken to. It would be ashamed to not be able to burn that cross. Take it that you have not heard the last of the Master.

  2. With a costume like that, how well can he clean a highway? Thats effectiveness.

  3. As pete noted … the costume was very authentic, much more so than the costumes in the movie …

    I’m not buying Garrison’s explanation.

    How much do you want to bet he’s easily re-elected? In fact, if I’m going to be cynical about it and taking into account Woosty’s “iceberg” metaphor, I’d even suggest he released the picture himself.

  4. Wearing the robe was a stupid thing for him to do but stupid is common is young men. Is it relevant today? It’s a sign that I’d take a good look at how he has done his job for the last 10 years. I wouldn’t vote for his opponent. If he doesn’t measure up someone needs to find a good write-in candidate.

    Blazing Saddles came out in 1978.

  5. I thought I’d met ugly till I came to Florida. The problem isn’t always whether that one singular person has changed, matured, grown up, whatever you want to call it… is all the ‘buds’, all the connections, the town?

    Towns are like icebergs… much lurks beneath the surface and the base is often broader than the visable top….

  6. TheDisco, I laughed so hard they nearly had to call a “code” on me.

    Darren Smith, it’s not the same thing, in my opinion. If you dress as a Zombie, you’re pretending to be a scary thing that really doesn’t exist. If you dress as a member of the KKK, you’re pretending to be — and thinking it’s funny — a member of a gang that terrorized, tortured and killed people for a very long time, proudly, and aggressively, in the South. The first instance is just silly and everyone can laugh at it. Only people who had actually REALLY been (or had ancestors who had really been) victimized by REAL Zombies would have cause to feel creeped-out, scared, mistrustful, wary, or insulted. ON the other hand, those who had, say, been victimized by the Klan (which was a lot realler and a lot more dangerous than zombies, at least in Georgia, during recorded history) would have a real problem feeling trust in their government after this image was part of the common knowledge. And we’re not talking about prosecuting the guy for having dressed in a costume; we’re talking about whether he’s going to be able to do a good job in public office where some of the people paying taxes to fund his salary and pension AND MEDICAL CARE are aware that he thought it was cute to dress up as a murderous hateful bigoted torturer.

    I can’t see how it would be different if someone running for office in Germany today were to dress up for a costume party as Adolph Hitler. Think it would fly?

  7. This seems more an act of political despiration than anything. It was a costume party. If the sheriff had dressed back then like a Zombie would his opponent accuse him of eating the brains of hot looking chicks today? I guess since ex post facto morality is afoot in the political arena how about impeaching President Obama for smoking dope, President G W Bush for his DWI, How about going after President Jackson for killing a man in a duel? We could always open his coffin give his body the Leon Czolgosz treatment.

  8. What a lame-o. Really should of just said “Thats not me!” and gotten away with it. If he can’t lie on his feet he really shouldn’t be running for public office in the great US of A.

  9. Malisha, you will get no argument from me on the issue of effectiveness. My concern for the good people of the county is whether both these guys are damaged goods to the point they cannot truly be effective. If one of them has been married five times, one cannot help but wonder if he is lacking in social skills or emotional stability. The other in full KKK costume raises a level of distrust that will be hard to undo. Imagine being a minority in the county and you need to call on the Sheriff for some service. If I were black, brown or Jewish, I would think twice about calling on him for anything.

  10. OS, BFM’s observation that Southerners are not all bigots was demonstrated by you, on another thread, in the past. And this is not ONLY a question of bigotry (in this race between candidates) but also a question of effectiveness. How effective can somebody be, in office, at a certain point in time. Let’s just say the whole “white sheet costume party” thing was a childish prank or, alternatively, that it was a bigoted thing that the guy “grew out of.” So what? Can he function in his office NOW? (I didn’t even look into what the other guy’s particular liabilities are.)

  11. The question raised above is whether there is bigotry, and if so, has he lived it down. The more pertinent question is one of maturity. Both candidates have records that raise the issue of maturity. I want my local sheriff to have both common sense and maturity. Maturity does not mean lack of sense of humor, but both these guys have rather shady track records with regard to their personal lives.

    As for outgrowing bigotry, both Governor George Wallace and Senator Robert Byrd demonstrated that is possible. However, with these candidates in Georgia, pardon me if I wear my skeptical hat. I think if I lived in that district I would go fishing on election day. That would be a more productive activity than having to choose between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Or was that Tweedle Dumb?

  12. He wants a free pass…… Seems only appropriate if he is willing to give other juveniles the same free pass….. Especially when it comes to juvenile records…… Used to be when they turned 18 that record was sealed….. Now it follows them, some for life…..Especially when you use the juvenile record to score a harsher sentence as an adult….. Just saying……

  13. How old was he in 1985? What ethnic group does Garrison come from? What year did Blazing Saddles come out? I watch it often. “Oh Boys” then, “Where the White Women At?”
    Then the scene where the townspeople are deciding to let the freedmen take part in their town with 40 acres and a mule and the guy says: “But not the Irish!” But then he relents.
    I would say that someone has to draw the line here. The guy cites Blazing Saddles, and if the guy candidate is Irish then dont vote for him.

  14. it was fortunate he just happened to have a klan robe handy for the party. it looks well made and very authentic.


    while traveling through roanoke ala i ended up on the tailend of a klan parade. they don’t like hippys much either.

    1. @pete “they don’t like hippys much either.”

      Agreed. As far as I can tell they don’t like much of any body except white, Anglo Saxon, protestants, preferably with very short hair.

      It is sort of ironic. Real wasps frequently don’t care much for them, but that is probably a class difference.

      But I don’t automatically assume that anyone from the south is a bigot. My guess is that these days the incidence of bigotry in the sough is not much different from other parts of the county – but there is certainly more than enough to go around.

      And even if the darkest days of the old south and Jim Crows, there were still southerners who took their stand against the sheriffs, the police with their dogs, billy clubs, cattle prods and gas.

      So no, I don’t assume that I can read a persons point of view from their point of geographic origin.

      BTW I am glad you were able to enjoy the celebration from a distance without becoming involved or perhaps the guest of honor, so to speak. Definitely nasty stuff.

  15. Oh, is there an issue about whether this guy is a bigot or not? I just presumed that both of the candidates were bigots, but the one had married five times and the other one was a blithering idiot. If you’re talking about the job of sheriff, is it better to have a nightmare or an idiot?

  16. I grew up at a time when the Klan could and frequently did march down the main street of most any small town in America. I personally find the Klan offensive. And I am not so sure I believe the innocent explanation for the picture.

    Nevertheless we have 20 years of data on this person. Certainly it should be clear from his years of service if he is a bigot, or whether he performs the duties of his position with a responsible, even hand.

    I have no idea how her performs his duties. But if his job performance is what it should be then the picture is not an issue to me.

    Everyone, even bigots, should be able to live down the past. If he does the job the way he should, the good news is he changed. What more could be possibly ask?

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