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Mullin says: ‘I represent Oklahoma values.’ Newspapers say: ‘Not a chance.’

Mullin also said “sometimes you need to get punched in the face.” These newspapers decided to oblige him.

4 min read

When Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) threatened to beat up Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien at a recent Senate hearing on workers and labor unions, he claimed the home folks would have his back because “I represent Oklahoma values.”

Oklahoma is MAGA Republican Red – even more deeply crimsoned than the OU football team’s helmets and home jerseys. Mullin is all MAGA all the time; he has endorsed Donald Trump for president next year.

Though Oklahoma is part of Trumpistan, Mullin got torn a brand new one (as we say in Kentucky) in the Sooner State’s top two newspapers and in at least one small town paper. The latter one recalled how the Sooner State’s junior senator exhibited less than a profile in courage during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection instigated by his guy Trump.

The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City): “With Markwayne Mullin’s D.C. antics, ‘Oklahoma values’ go down the drain”

Clytie Bunyan, the paper’s managing editor for diversity, community engagement and opinion, lamented that “21st-century congressional leadership in Oklahoma has sunk to a new low.” She added that “now our leaders far too frequently place an unwelcome spotlight on Oklahoma as the center of idiocy.”

Bunyan accused Mullin of instigating “tense moments” during the hearing by challenging O'Brien to fisticuffs. (No blows were struck after the Committee Chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told Mullin to sit down and clam up.) “Instead of remaining deliberate in addressing labor laws and conditions for workers in factories and warehouses across this country, Mullin believed the time was right to revisit perceived grievances and start a brawl on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“That behavior may be just fine for Mullin and those who think everything can be settled in a fist fight but, contrary to what he said in an interview later, it does not reflect ‘Oklahoma values.’”

Mullin “would have the nation believe that Oklahomans want to go back to dueling to settle disagreements. No people in this country crave violence less than Oklahomans. We’re still trying to overcome the legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre. We’re still coming to terms with the brutality of the Osage killings, now more widely known because of the movie ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’ And far too many people still bear physical and emotional scars from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing that resulted in the deaths of 168 men, women and children in Oklahoma City.

“So how dare Mullin, as a representative of this state, portray Oklahomans as people who support violence of any kind!

“His actions are the latest in a string of embarrassments for the state.”

Tulsa World: “Fistfights and taunts aren’t Oklahoma values”

An editorial noted that Mullin and O’Brien “had traded barbs during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee meeting in March that later escalated on social media. But the ever-irascible Mullin wouldn’t let it go. He came into [the] committee hearing intent on picking an actual fistfight, holding up copies of O’Brien’s social media posts that taunted the senator. Mullin believes one post challenged him to a fight.

“It was an embarrassing spectacle for Congress and Oklahomans. Mullin doubled down in later interviews, telling Newsmax, ‘Every now and then, you need to get punched in the face.’ That’s an entertaining soundbite, but violence is not a legitimate solution in settling public policy differences. That’s the caveman way, not the diplomatic or smart way.”

Violence is also the MAGA way. Elevating demagoguery over governing and helping constituents is the MAGA way, too.

The editorial also faulted O’Brien for his  “mocking tone and enjoyment of a riled-up Mullin,” but cited that behavior as “another reason for the senator to rise above it.” The editorial conceded that “being a hothead ... may play well with his core voting constituents, but it ultimately won’t help Oklahomans.”

Tahlequah Daily Press: “Mullin antics another embarrassing chapter”

Oklahomans can add another chapter to the state’s saga of embarrassment on the national scene – this one written by Sen. Markwayne Mullin, a frequent contributor.

“Mullin has always been controversial. Back in 2012, when he was elected District 2 U.S. House representative, he had big shoes to fill. Dan Boren, a “blue-dog Democrat,” had decided not to seek reelection, and Mullin slid in behind him, surprising many observers. Press releases from that office switched from straightforward snippets of information on what Congress was doing, to bitter partisan screeds attacking Democrats. Mullin is not one to expend effort reaching across the aisle. That was clear when he refused to speak in Tahlequah after then-Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker refused to strip free expression from citizens who wished to hold up placards questioning Mullin’s honesty.

“The most recent flap involved Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, whom Mullin told during a hearing to ‘stand your butt up’ so they could lock horns. Mullin, despite his small stature, often boasts of his tenure as a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and he likely thought his experience would give him the upper hand. But a couple of observers in the gallery remarked on his current bravado, given widely circulated images of him cowering between rows of chairs as the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection went down.” [italics mine]


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY



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