Char Smith isn’t a professional journalist. He studied journalism at Spokane Falls Community College, but he’s not working for a local paper.
But Smith, 22, managed to do what the Spokesman Review and The Inlander have not been able to do in a very long time: interview Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea.
Under the screen name The Arbiter, Smith published a blog post on the Spovangelist this morning, featuring quotes from Shea and his Democratic opponent, Amy Biviano.
“Well, I got tired of hearing him bitch about how the media doesn’t give him a fair shot,” Smith says. “I decided I’ve got some semblance of media ability. If people are going to vote against Matt, we might as well put something where he can say his bit… rather than the whole ‘wife-beating, gun-toting Republican’ thing.”
Shea had rejected repeated interview requests from The Inlander and the
Spokesman Review. He or one of his staff members even deleted
a direct question from an Inlander staffer posted on his Facebook page.
But Smith had an in.
He’s a legal assistant for Marshall Casey, the local attorney suing the controversial Ridpath Hotel figure Greg Jeffreys. Shea, meanwhile, also happens to be an attorney in Casey Law Offices.
Smith says he and Shea struck up conversations on their similar interests. They’re both history buffs, they’re both particularly fascinated by Ireland’s past. (Shea uses a shamrock as his campaign logo.)
“I just lucked out, that I already knew him,” Smith says. “I had a rapport.”
Since Smith wasn’t affiliated with official media outlets, Shea agreed to give him a 15-minute interview at his offices. As they began talking, those 15-minutes stretched into 45, Smith says.
“He was pretty calm and laid-back about the whole thing,” Smith said. “He seemed like his guard was down, he knows I’m not interested in his personal life or Amy’s personal life.
Smith says he asked Shea why he didn’t grant interviews to other media outlets. He says Shea was frustrated over the coverage of his personal life, and didn’t believe he’d get a “fair shake” no matter what he did, so he decided to refuse to talk to them. (The Inlander offered to print a complete unedited transcript of a Shea interview online, but Shea never even bothered to respond.)
“I could not be further away from Matt’s political leanings if I tried to be,” Smith says. But he also says he didn’t care about the stuff in Shea’s personal life, and thought the Spokesman Review really “tore into Shea over some really questionable shit about his divorce.”
Smith’s interview focused on everything from marijuana (Shea supports keeping medicinal marijuana legal) to Shea’s efforts to curtail the power of the federal government with the Tenth Amendment Center, a state’s rights organization, to his comments perpetuating FEMA camp conspiracy theories on the Alex Jones radio show.
“Matt’s a unique politician,” Smith says. “You know exactly what you’re going to get. Even if it’s out there, he believes [what he says.]”