Editorial Roundup: Missouri

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 24, 2024.

Editorial: Parson is right to block state payout for defamation. Bailey is wrong, as usual.

For months now, this Editorial Board has charted the egregious politicization of the Missouri Attorney General’s office under its current occupant, Andrew Bailey. In our ongoing editorial feature, “ The Bailey Tally,” we have shown how his ideologically driven abuses of power make him Missouri’s worst statewide public officeholder.

As Bailey this year seeks election to his current job, we hope our attention to his various official stunts will convince readers and voters of his unique unfitness for office.

But we confess, we never imagined that Gov. Mike Parson, who appointed fellow Republican Bailey to office to fill a vacancy last year, might be among the convincible.

Parson hasn’t said that, exactly. But in announcing last week that Missouri will under no circumstances pay a defamation judgment that might be headed toward three right-wing state senators, Parson has issued a remarkable (if indirect) refutation of the man who used to be his gubernatorial legal counsel.

State Sens. Rick Brattin, Denny Hoskins and Nick Schroer are being justly sued for defamation by a Kansas man for spreading false social-media allegations that he was involved in the mass shooting that killed one and wounded more than 20 during the Kansas City Chiefs Feb. 14 Super Bowl celebration.

Because the senators’ reckless comments also falsely suggested the plaintiff was an illegal immigrant, Bailey — never one to miss a chance to demagogue the right’s immigrant obsession — announced that his office (meaning, the taxpayers) would provide their legal defense.

As if slandering a private citizen for political gain, as the senators clearly did, somehow qualifies as official state business and is therefore eligible for a state-funded defense.

Parson expressed the qualms of even many top Republicans when he criticized Bailey’s involvement. “We’re just not going to attack citizens … just because we think we have the power to do such,” Parson said in early May.

Alas, even though he appointed Bailey as attorney general, it’s still an elective office, meaning Parson can’t tell him what to do.

But he can — and, last week, did — draw the state’s purse strings.

Parson on Monday ordered that no state funds will be released for any monetary judgments that result from the suit. “Missourians should not be held liable for legal expenses on judgements due to state senators falsely attacking a private citizen on social media,” Parson wrote. “I cannot justify money spent in this way.”

No responsible public official could. Too bad that description leaves out Missouri’s top legal official.