by James A. Bacon
“Chutzpah” is a Yiddish word for cheek and audacity. Eastern European Jews may have invented the term, but Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Richmond, personifies it. Convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he won re-election to the House of Delegates in a snap election yesterday while cooling his heels in Henrico County jail,
I know Joe Morrissey. I like Joe Morrissey. He’s smart, curious and outgoing, and he has an infectious enthusiasm. When I published my book, “Boomergeddon,” four years ago, he invited me to lunch to talk about it. He disagreed with my thesis — that the United States was heading for a fiscal breakdown in 15 to 20 years — but he was open to discussing it. When he’s on good behavior, he’s interesting, well-informed and entertaining. Fortunately for me in my dealings with him, I’ve only encountered the good Joe Morrissey.
But the bad Joe Morrissey is very bad. He’s hot headed, infamously getting into a courthouse brawl with another attorney years ago and later assaulting a handyman who worked for him. The latter incident resulted in a suspension of his law license. He’s also fathered three children out of wedlock with three different women — and that doesn’t include the young woman, 17 years old at the time and now 18, with whom he allegedly had sex in a dalliance that landed him his current spell in jail. That woman, who worked in his office, now is pregnant and won’t identify the father.
Morrissey has parlayed his colorful past into an electoral asset. He portrays himself as a fighter and a scrapper, willing to stand up for the little guy — a message that resonates in his predominantly African-American legislative district in Richmond, eastern Henrico County and Charles City County. African-American voters apparently are more forgiving of his moral foibles than straight-laced political leaders such as Governor Terry McAuliffe and House Speaker William Howell, who find Morrissey an embarrassment and would like to see him gone from the legislature.
I’m inclined to forgive Morrissey a lot. In the 19th century, his ready resort to fisticuffs would have been considered ordinary. And one can argue that his irregular domestic affairs are his own business. But there is one big problem I cannot overlook: He appears to be an outrageous liar. Rather than admit to his misdeeds with his under-age receptionist, he launched an all-out denial. He never had sex with the girl, he said, and, besides, he thought she was older than 17.
What about the incriminating photos and text messages on his cell phone that prove otherwise? You can’t match Joe Morrissey for chutzpah. The photos and messages, he claims, were planted by the girl’s jealous lesbian lover who hacked his phone! Somewhere in New York, Anthony Weiner must be kicking himself for not thinking of that line.
Cynics can argue that politicians lie all the time, so what’s the big deal? Well, it is a big deal when we catch them. And few lies have been as flagrant as the whoppers that Morrissey wants the public to swallow. He has repeatedly shown bad judgment and he has no credibility with fellow legislators. He cannot possibly provide effective representation. He should do his constituents a favor and step down. Of course, he won’t. He wouldn’t be Fighting Joe Morrissey if he did.
Addendum: Here’s the Alford plea agreement summarizing the commonwealth’s case against Morrissey and Morrissey’s defense. Decide for yourself.There are currently no comments highlighted.