Say what you will about his method, but the editor who tricked Gov. Scott Walker into thinking he was billionaire supporter David Koch got a cult hero's welcome Saturday from the protesters he showed up to rally with in Madison.
Ian Murphy, editor of the online Buffalo Beast, spoke to protesters in the rotunda of the Capitol — reopened to the public by court order — and made a video of a fake fight under an inflatable palm tree.
He dropped by Ian's Pizza for one of the free slices paid for by people around the world supporting the fight against Walker's budget repair bill that would eliminate bargaining rights for most state workers.
At Starbucks on the Capitol Square, the mild-mannered Murphy, 32, was hailed as a hero by a steady stream of demonstrators who asked him to pose for photos and autograph their signs. One protester urged Murphy to do his Koch imitation, which he readily obliged, saying, "beautiful, beautiful."
West Bend student Eva Martin, 16, who came out to support her teachers, hugged Murphy, saying, "Thank you so much — You rock my world."
"He uncovered ... what the Republican agenda is about," said former state Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, who posed with his grandson for a photo with Murphy.
Though the Society of Professional Journalists condemned the ruse, Murphy said he believes he acted in keeping with the organization's ethics code, which states that undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information should be avoided except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
"I just gave him a rope, so to speak," Murphy said, adding, Walker "hung himself."
Murphy, who is planning a run for the New York State congressional seat recently vacated by Chris Lee, said his ruse that led to a 20-minute recorded conversation "bore fruit" and added, "I might do it again."
In the vein of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, Murphy said, "First and foremost, I'm just trying to make people laugh." Any other information, he said, "is just frosting."
Murphy was flown to Wisconsin by Fond du Lac High School teacher Mike Jaber, who said he wanted to do something to support his colleagues while recovering from shoulder surgery.
"I've been force-fed a lot of ‘sassages,'" Murphy said. "I've been force-fed curd against my will." Cheese, that is. Deep-fried, of course.
Murphy came prepared for winter in Wisconsin, donning a furry cap he maintained was "real Muppet." And while such attire is commonplace here, he said, "You wear this in Buffalo, and they think you're a hipster."