Mud-Slinging Comic Book Stirs Up Scandal

Political candidates looking for an edge have employed all types of cutthroat tactics to sully their opponents, from TV ads depicting nuclear war and paroled murderer-rapists to flyers alleging interracial relationships and criminal fraud.

And then there was the 16-page homophobic comic book featuring Satan, angels, toga-wearing gay people and crude depictions of public officials discussing "anal sodomy" and "Pedifiles."

Read the whole comic book here.

Brent Rinehart, an Oklahoma County Commissioner locked in a tough reelection race, spent two months creating the comic book and is preparing to send it out to registered Republicans in his district.


In one panel, Satan is depicted holding a pitchfork, saying "If I can get the kids to believe homosexuality is normal!"

A nearby angel replies, "Hey Satan, not with Brent around you won't."

The book also attacks Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who filed felony campaign finance charges against Rinehart last year related to his 2004 campaign for county commissioner. Rinehart's trial is set to begin in September.

Edmondson is depicted holding a sign that says "Gay rights now!" while Rinehart's figure blasts the attorney general for his decision to "force the Boy Scouts to accept homosexuals as scout leaders, a pedifile's [sic] dream come true."

Though the book's content has stirred up scandal and been widely condemned by politicians in Oklahoma, Rinehart is unrepentant, misspellings aside.

"I'm proud of it," he tells "It's a novel way to tell a story about the last three and a half years. It's informative, entertaining and a good read."

"That's not the first storm that I've stirred up since I was elected to office," says Rinehart, explaining that "in my opinion, there are a lot of people who in their campaign material, it's the same old 'Blah, blah, blah.' I wanted to do something different."

The book's targets were outraged at their depictions.

Edmondson issued a statement saying, "A drowning man tends to thrash about."

And the attorney general's spokesman added, "That's the nature of being in a prosecutorial office. People don't like it when you file charges against them."

Rinehart defended his depiction of Edmondson, explaining that "it's a way to show his true colors."

He denied the campaign finance charges, calling them "politically vindictive."

"There is nothing to them," Rinehart said. "I abided by the letter of the law."

As for Edmondson, Rinehart says "He is the one bent on vindictive revenge."

Jim Roth, an openly gay member of the corporation commission in Oklahoma City, is depicted in the cartoons, leading a group of shirtless gay-rights marchers.

"He's a disturbed soul and it's disgusting to see him target people like that," says Roth, who says that he often tangled with Rinehart when they served together on the county commission.

"I'm very familiar with his twisted thinking. He has a professional history of doing things to distract from his own bad behavior."

Rinehart admits that the book is "edgy at times" but claims that it is not bigoted or homophobic. "What you do in the bedroom is private, but when it comes to public policy, that's a different matter. When they make it [like adding rules making sexual orientation one of the forms of discrimination outlawed in Oklahoma City schools] public policy, that's where I get a little irate."

And John Whetsel, the Oklahoma County sheriff, who is depicted demanding more taxpayer money so he can buy "more, more and more toys" alongside allegations of abuse of inmates at the county jail, was equally angry.

"Overall, it's a pathetic, bigoted, mean-spirited piece," he says. "It's hard to believe that an elected official would put out some piece of trash like that."

Whetsel said that Rinehart has an anti-law-enforcement reputation, voting against putting deputies in schools and replacing squad cars for deputies.

Rinehart says he targeted Whetsel because "he's one of the good-old-boy politicians. He spent over 40 cents of every dollar that comes into the Oklahoma County general fund."

Rinehart just might be making political history with his stunt.

While candidates have used flyers with crude images and photographs in direct mail campaigns, the use of a multi-page comic book in a political campaign seems unprecedented, says Kerwin Swint, the author of "Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time."

"Cartoons have been used on occasion, usually about gun rights, but not a full comic book," he says, adding that mailing the book to voters is consistent with the preferred use of direct mail to tar an opponent because "it slides under the radar, unlike TV."

In general, negative direct mail consists of personal attacks, such as descriptions of divorces or child custody cases, explains Swint.

Even before the modern era of direct mail, personal attacks were common via flyers and handbills.

Two of the most prominent cases, according to Swint, were the Ku Klux Klan printing up flyers about George Wallace's opponent Albert Brewer in 1970, alleging that Brewer's daughter had been impregnated by a black man. And in 1800, supporters of John Adams distributed handbills claiming that Thomas Jefferson was the son of an Indian squaw.