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A Semi-Defense of Sheila Johnson

Putting aside for a moment my own longstanding beef with Sheila Johnson, I'm not so sure that she deserves the pillorying she's currently receiving for her mocking of Creigh Deeds.

In case you haven't heard, Johnson--the co-founder of BET and a supporter of Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell--was caught on tape at a McDonnell campaign event disparaging (and disparagingly imitating) Deeds's communication skills. The Deeds campaign distributed the video of Johnson's comments to a bunch of blogs and accused Johnson of mocking not only Deeds, but also people with speech impediments, ultimately browbeating Johnson into an apology.

But here's the thing: I don't think Creigh Deeds has a speech impediment, at least as we traditionally define one. True, he's not a polished speaker--the point Johnson was making about him--but that doesn't mean he has what would be considered a stutter. So far as I can tell from Nexis, prior to this hullabaloo over Johnson's comments, no one has ever written or said that Deeds has a speech impediment. And when reporters recently asked a Deeds campaign spokesperson (who was blasting Johnson) whether Deeds did actually have a stutter, the spokesperson dodged the question.

If Deeds does indeed have a speech impediment, then Johnson was wrong to mock him for it. But if he's just a bad speaker, then I don't see the problem with Johnson pointing that out. Otherwise, we're going to have to start slagging Will Ferrell for great stuff like this.