Will the media miss Graeme Zielinski?

2013-03-05T06:00:00Z Will the media miss Graeme Zielinski?JACK CRAVER | The Capital Times | jcraver@madison.com madison.com

As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, Graeme Zielinski is no longer the official voice of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He was removed from his position as communications director and docked a week’s pay after three of his tweets last week compared Gov. Scott Walker’s legal defense to that of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Many online continue to voice disbelief that Zielinski remains employed, apparently as a “media adviser.”

“I would like to know, along with many other people, why they think that our member dues should still be used to keep him on the payroll,” wrote Doug Cvetkovich, a Democratic activist and blogger who has clashed with Zielinski in the past.

Cvetkovich’s feelings are not unusual in Democratic circles. Elected officials and party operatives have regularly voiced their frustrations with Zielinski’s antics over the past three years to reporters, though usually not on the record. Progressive bloggers and activists were more open with their criticism, much of which provoked even more outrage from Zielinski, who often seemed eager to engage in online wars of words with the very people the party depends on to win elections.

Indeed, unlike other flacks who have gotten in trouble for an unwise utterance on social media, Zielinski seemed intent on provoking outrage with nearly every tweet he sent.

But Zielinski certainly had his defenders in the party. Jud Lounsbury, a former state party communications director, says Zielinski’s style is consistent with that of the “bad cop” flack who makes attacks that candidates for office don’t have to make themselves.

“In my opinion, Graeme has his faults, but overall he's been a great communications director for the party,” he says.

"And somewhere, high above the sky in an airplane far away from Wisconsin, Scott Walker is smiling," wrote Lounsbury on his blog.

Perhaps Walker is smiling, but not because Zielinski's firing means he has disposed of a significant political opponent. If anything, Republicans used to egg Zielinski on, believing his rants to be little more than self-inflicting wounds.

The media, which regarded Zielinski’s behavior with a mixture of bemusement, puzzlement and outrage, will miss him at least a little bit. On one hand, he could be counted on to deliver a much more interesting quote than the typical flack. However, after at least two appearances on TV and radio programs where he was reprimanded by hosts for refusing to respect rules, Zielinski found his air time limited by some irritated station managers.

And of course, media outlets will not miss the bullying they endured from Zielinski, who regularly accused journalists of incompetence and bias. After I wrote a story about him that he didn't like, he barred me from official party events and repeatedly falsely alleged that I had not tried to reach him for comment.

Robert Mentzer, editorial page editor for the Wausau Herald, summarized the conflicted feelings of many in the press in his column responding to Zielinski’s demotion.

“I don’t think there’s any good defense for Zielinski’s behavior but I also dread the boring political communiqués that are sure to follow in his wake,” he writes. “But I contradict myself. I dreaded Zielinski’s communiqués, too, because when everything is worse than Jeffrey Dahmer it is impossible to know which outrage to take seriously.”

Many will say the last straw was Zielinski’s tweet about Dahmer, a reference that is not taken lightly in Wisconsin — particularly not in Milwaukee. The real last straw, however, was the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s decision to run a story on the tweet. Finally, Zielinski’s behavior was summarized by a headline that didn’t simply annoy political insiders and amuse reporters, but shocked and outraged readers of all political stripes.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(29) Comments

  1. Skye
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    Skye - March 06, 2013 11:36 pm
    Of course he wasn't. Each side treats pundits on the other side as white noise - we all know that and you're simply parroting the comments of Sykes followers. He spoke plainly with humor, toughness and street smarts. He's a working class guy and the really sickening aspect of this story is the way the so-called liberal elite turned on someone who worked so hard for their campaigns over a fake news story. The contempt they feel for the original core of the party is on obvious display this week. I will agree that Occupy was silliness and the recalls were insane beyond all comprehension. They bet it all without a viable candidate and destroyed the WI Democratic Party in the process. All because they couldn't be bothered to vote the first time around. It's time to go nuclear on the lib dem's.
  2. Lynne4300
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    Lynne4300 - March 06, 2013 8:32 am
    The democratic party has a perfect replacement for GZ, Brett Hulsey.
  3. wiprof
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    wiprof - March 06, 2013 6:46 am
    Graeme Crackers was a gift to the right--especially when added to the over-the-top antics of the cap demonstrations and the Occupy silliness. It was a collective message from the petulant left and Graeme was a perfect fit. For that reason he will be missed. Shoot, I wanted him on the air all the time.
  4. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 9:19 pm
    You forgot to mention the lock they'll put on the Federal seats soon - Ryan will take out RJ in the 2016 primaries and Walker will defeat Baldwin in 2018. They'll pick up all the congressional districts but Milwaukee and Madison by 2016 or 2018 at the latest. Agree - it's last chance for the state party to act now and save itself.
  5. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 8:42 pm
    One of the funniest moments of the saga was the tweets among the ace reporters covering the story about what the Gov. really said. Was it "it's irrelevant" or "he's irrelevant". They couldn't remember and the one competent enough to apparently recollect he recorded the press conference played it back something like 8 times until they settled on "he's irrelevant". The meaning sure changes based on that one word.

    I don't really agree with the listed accomplishments but I would offer that Gov. Walker clearly and consistently communicates a simple set of policy initiatives, brings incredible and laser focus to his job, and goes about his business with a calm and relatively sophisticated demeanor. There has to be some reason Dems don't seem able to compete.
  6. Richard123
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    Richard123 - March 05, 2013 6:54 pm
    Governor Walker was right: Graeme Zielinski is irrelevant, along with all the other politicians who are more interested in being clever and talking "progressive" instead of doing what they are elected and appointed to do: lead us in solving our problems. Governor Walker is a proven "doer," balancing a budget way out of whack, creating jobs, producing a surplus in fact, making wise cuts without massive layoffs, correcting the excesses of the past by both parties. What does he get for all his efforts? Thanks? Praise? Attaboys? Grateful citizens? The majority of us are grateful for his leadership. The whiney minority would rather posture, hate and obstruct instead of offering constructive criticism and realistic plans to solve our challenges. Can anyone say "the party of No?"
  7. Jane11
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    Jane11 - March 05, 2013 6:30 pm
    Everyone does it is no kind of excuse of course but I think the party is so messed up, this is all he had for messaging. A made up news story orchestrated by right wing radio is a terrible reason to fire someone. Dems let themselves be humiliated and manipulated yet again. When the dust settles on this one, it will become clear that GZ was neither the problem nor the solution. The rot is too deep and the Party is in too much trouble.
  8. Ljohn586
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    Ljohn586 - March 05, 2013 5:20 pm
    Mike Tate shoul be fired, ASAP.
    Republicans control the State Senate, Assembly, Gov, Attorney General.
    They control everthing. We can't wait..fire Mike Tate!!!
  9. jimri
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    jimri - March 05, 2013 5:03 pm
    Hey, the entire oeuvre of Graeme Zielinski speaks for itself. After reading every miserable thing he's said about people over the last few years, if you think you can get away with "but, but, but EVERYONE DOES IT", that says just about all the rest of us need to know.
  10. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 3:01 pm
    You know of course he didn't really make that comparison, right? And you have been following the steady stream of pols who did make interesting comparisons in the not too distant past (see below for a sample but a quick Google search will turn up the other sources)? Quick score: WI Democratic Party (esp Liberal Elite) = humiliated losers, remains to be seen whether they've finally hit bottom; WI MSM = reduced to babbling sychophants; Republican Party = the winning spectators; Sykes = Victorius.
  11. Retoother
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    Retoother - March 05, 2013 2:39 pm
  12. Smitty
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    Smitty - March 05, 2013 2:29 pm
    Graeme Zielinski? That's not who we are in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin we don't compare our elected officials to mentally ill serial killers. In Wisconsin we're above that. Apparently Graeme Zielinski's not, but here in Wisconsin whether you're a democrat or a republican we don't condone that kind of behavior. Clearly, Graeme Zielinski's cheese has slipped off his cracker and he's not worthy of representing the point of view of a democrat or anyone else for that matter. We're better than that in Wisconsin.
  13. Mr_Deeks
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    Mr_Deeks - March 05, 2013 2:21 pm
    If this guy could put a cork in it he would make a perfect clandestine dirty tricks operator.
  14. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 2:11 pm
    Yes, yes the con worked. The liberal elites running the WI Dem Party and the lazy WI MSM swallowed hook, line and sinker the nonsense that Walker was personally compared to Dahmer. Congrats. Well played. But seriously move out of the way and let a few of us give the lefty Cap Times readers the beat down they deserve.
  15. Retoother
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    Retoother - March 05, 2013 1:18 pm
    Really? You're trying to say the two comments are equal? LOL Walker trying to keep a racist off the ticket and you compare that to Zelinski's rant on tweeter?

    Nice try.

    And Kasten? LMAO........going with McCarthy next?
  16. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 12:52 pm
    Don't you think "media adviser" is really just code for "we're giving him time to find something else"? They gave him the boot for sure.
  17. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 12:26 pm
    You're exactly right. The so-called liberal Dem elite regards GZ and all their remaining working class supporters as something to flush down the toilet after they've used them up. That message came through loud and clear. Look he was dealt a losing hand by a losing party. WI Dems have no clear, cohesive set of policy proposals, their legislators lack any ability to articulate a position and continually get beat down when going 1:1 with Repub counterparts, and they have no serious, strategic leader. So Graeme to get something, anything moving develops a persona to counter some of the bullying and fights fire with fire. I keep hearing that he didn't show any finesse. Seriously? His party is on life support and you think finesse buys you anything? I get the crowing from the right (and Sykes deserves great credit, he played it beautifully) but the celebrations on the left are just, plain sickening.
  18. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - March 05, 2013 12:23 pm
    Yes, I'm sure Zielinski suffered from not being able to rise to your level of sophistication.
  19. jimri
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    jimri - March 05, 2013 10:53 am
    Miss Graeme Zielinski?!? Gee, 5 minutes after you flush the toilet, do you miss what was in it?
  20. sarge
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    sarge - March 05, 2013 10:49 am
    Interesting that Scott walker has himself compared people to jeffrey dahmer :

    Outrageous! Scandalous! A young spokesman for a major Wisconsin political party compares a politician to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. And he's fired. No, wait. He's not fired. Instead, the spokesman goes on to become governor!

    The party was Republican, the year was 1992 and the spokesman was a 24-year-old Scott Walker. Yes, that Scott Walker.

    True, the politician whom Walker compared to Dahmer was an inexecrable racist, the one-time GOP candidate and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. But bad as Duke's prejudiced views were, he was not a cannibalistic serial killer.

    Never mind the distinction, though, because Walker was going all out in trying to shoot down Duke's attempt to get on that year's Wisconsin Republican presidential ballot. It's all on video, on the web (see link below). Debating Duke, Walker says, at one point:

    "The key is, we feel that in particular you are hiding behind these issues that are legitimate issues, but do not necessarily make you a legitimate candidate, any more than in the city of Milwaukee, if Jeffrey Dahmer were to stand up and talk about family values, he’s not a legitimate candidate."

    and of course during the race between fiengold and kasten kasten actually claimed that fiengold wanted to free jeffrey dahmer so he could kill again:

    For the lazy press who did not use google, we can also be reminded that Republican Senator Bob Kasten, running against an upstart candidate named Russ Feingold, actually blamed Feingold for Dahmer!

    "The 50-year-old Mr. Kasten, who has championed supply-side economics, is on the attack with a bus tour and television advertisements accusing Mr. Feingold of promoting radical plans to tax the middle class and coddle criminals. In a televised debate last Friday night, Mr. Kasten associated Mr. Feingold's vote in the State Senate against a no-parole bill, which was enacted, with last week's early release of Gerald M. Turner, a local convict who killed a 9-year-old girl 19 years ago. Then, over the weekend, Kasten volunteers called voters to suggest that Mr. Feingold had voted against preventing serial killers like Jeffrey L. Dahmer from receiving parole releases..."

    as I recall zelinski mearly said that walker spent more on his lawyers than dahmer, which is certainly true if somewhat specious.

    remember kids heinous as dahmer's crimes were, a big diference between dahmer and walker is that walker's attack on badger care will actually kill many more people than dahmer did.
  21. Skye
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    Skye - March 05, 2013 10:36 am
    Will you miss him? Oh, I'm sure you're all working on identifying your next working class target. State Dems were the biggest losers but the WI MSM is next in line. You were played - publicly, easily. I can't wait to see what Sykes does to you next.
  22. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - March 05, 2013 10:19 am
    But, of course, he ISN'T going away. He's still on the party payroll as a "media advisor". Ya gotta wonder who's gonna be taking the advice of a guy who got fired for following his own.
  23. IAD
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    IAD - March 05, 2013 8:57 am
    Interesting... all we get from the rest of the CT bloggers is the sound of crickets related to GZ's offensive rantings. Had the similar tone statements been made by a non-dem, the CT's bloggers would have gone into conniptions for weeks. That is why CT bloggers can't ever be taken too seriously.
  24. Mike123
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    Mike123 - March 05, 2013 8:28 am
    We have a tendency to kill the messenger, to avoid the message...with Walker's great walkaway from criminal prosecution (likely the payoffs were in place before the so callled 'witch hunt" was over, we should all take a step back and do the smell test: if it looks like it, smells like it...it is probably is it.
  25. Word
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    Word - March 05, 2013 7:55 am
    Who cares if the media miss him? He hasn't been an asset for the Dems or anyone else who would like a functioning political system that is capable of delivering social justice. Now if the other clowns in charge would just go away, we might have a credible progressive movement in Wisconsin...

  26. Report Abuse
    - March 05, 2013 7:50 am
    Luckily there is a long line of Liberal Dems who are equally willing and able to make outrageous comments, accusations, and outright lies, waiting to take his place
  27. Mikeo
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    Mikeo - March 05, 2013 7:45 am
    No if we could replace Mike Tate, as well, we might be on our way to an effective Democratic Party.
  28. epic
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    epic - March 05, 2013 7:38 am
    He would make a fine addition to the Capital Times editorial staff. Like Nichols, he is a progressive extrordinaire.
  29. Lynne4300
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    Lynne4300 - March 05, 2013 6:32 am
    "Perhaps Walker is smiling, but not because Zielinski's firing means he has disposed of a significant political opponent. If anything, Republicans used to egg Zielinski on, believing his rants to be little more than self-inflicting wounds."

    "political opponent"

    How absurd.

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