Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Lena Taylor Against the World

Democratic legislator’s press conference was a declaration of war -- against everybody.

By - May 10th, 2018 12:07 pm
Lena Taylor. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Lena Taylor. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

I had always been impressed with State. Sen Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), She seemed bright, poised and personable, with a radiant smile. So as editor of Milwaukee Magazine I was surprised when veteran journalist Marc Eisen came in with a feature story rating the state’s legislators (for the February 2009 issue) and Taylor made the list of the ten worst. 

These kind of rankings are always based on a consensus of many anonymous interviews with Capitol insiders — including the legislators themselves — and the 10 worst were a mix of Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. Taylor was described as a big disappointment compared to the “brilliant” legislator who preceded her in that district: current congresswoman Gwen Moore. 

“Absolutely no depth of understanding,” said one observer of Taylor. “Bombastic and egotistical,” said another. “Never stopping to understand the issue, because she already has the answers,” was the final takedown. 

I thought of that story while watching Taylor’s bizarre press conference yesterday. Taylor called the conference herself, to address some embarrassing problems that have arisen in the last week or so. She was issued a disorderly conduct citation (she’s pleaded not guilty) for allegedly using a racial slur against a black Wells Fargo bank teller. She was dropped from the joint finance committee after a state senate human resources investigation found she had bullied her legislative staff and must therefore attend interpersonal communication training sessions. 

Taylor has long been known for problems with her staff. In June of 2017, Journal Sentinel reporter Jason Stein did a story noting that since mid-January, “more than a half-dozen workers on Taylor’s small staff have either left her office, went on leave or both, according to personnel records and sources.”

As the Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice once wrote, “Taylor is well-known for her sometimes abrasive, sometimes exuberant personality.” That was in a story detailing a spat between Taylor and Milwaukee Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson, who reportedly had asked Taylor something like, “did you take your meds today…?

The fact that mild-mannered Mandela Barnes, then a Democratic state representative, ran against Taylor in the 2016 Democratic primary — with the support of Larson and some other Democrats — might suggest Taylor was a divisive figure within her own party. 

Did Taylor draw any lessons from this opposition? Perhaps not. For she easily defeated Barnes. And her performance yesterday suggests someone who sees herself as “a fighter,” which apparently means not having to apologize for much of anything. 

Taylor heaped blame on a long list of folks during her remarkable 24-minute-long press conference, including:

-The “disgruntled employee” in her office who accused her of bullying. “I do not apologize for demanding the work be done.”

-Senate investigators: “The process not fair” and “did not follow the rules… The real question is why was the process handled this way?” 

-Democratic state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, who was appointed to replace Taylor on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee: “Clarence Thomas is no Thurgood Marshall” and “LaTonya Johnson is no Lena Taylor.”

-Mayor Tom Barrett:  “It’s also interesting. My mayor, who never normally comes to Senate Democratic Caucus fundraisers, is now at them.” (Barrett had no comment on this remark, which seemed to suggest the mayor has it in for Taylor.) 

-Milwaukee Police Department and the media: “I’m saddened (by) the racism that exists in the community — if I could be very candid, in the media as well as the MPD.” 

-Wells Fargo: “Completely unacceptable… This a Wells Fargo problem that happened… It’s been proven they create an environment where their employees feel that they need to lie, cheat and deceive.”    

There were also shots at the “lack of diversity” at local non-profits and “lack of cultural competency’ in Milwaukee Public Schools, to reinforce a central narrative, that in such a racist community, only Taylor is being accused of using a racial slur.  

“I don’t think I’ve seen a slew of individuals… Can you name me anybody who’s been cited — other than Lena Taylor — in the nation?” 

Taylor also passed out information to the media to make her case, including the bank’s video of the encounter, which was supposed to prove Taylor didn’t us a racial slur. Except that Taylor, in her speech, admitted she called the teller a “house (n-word)”, while elaborating on the various ways the n-word might be pronounced. “If the gentleman in the bank was offended, I’m sorry.” 

It was the only apology offered amid the litany of accusations. Taylor might have simply apologized for an encounter she says happened after having to wait 20 minutes for service (we’ve all been there), and promised to learn and improve in her handling of staff. If she was a contrite defendant, odds are the judge would dismiss the disorderly conduct charge. Most people — even hard hearted reporters — are willing to forgive and forget once an apology is offered.   

Instead, Taylor chose to make a mountain out of a mole hill, to turn two minor situations into a community-wide — if not national — case of racism. 

And many of her complaints and charges were delivered with that radiant smile, which seemed to suggest she was simply a charming and misunderstood victim of a dastardly “political lynching,” as she called it. 

“I’m not afraid to speak truth to power,” Taylor declared. “I’m still going to stand up and fight.”

And with that disconcerting smile on her face, she asked us to understand the kind of outspoken woman she is, confidently blooming “with my thorns and my petals. I embrace it and so should you.”

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

25 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Lena Taylor Against the World”

  1. Jacob currently of the MKE says:

    Her support for concealed carry, for profit voucher schools, and supporting Abele legislative coup against the Milwaukee County Board are all negatives to me. I stopped supporting her because she is a grifters

  2. Matt says:

    She’s not afraid to speak truth to power. As the power in the state is currently republican it should distress her that the power wants her to keep on speaking.

    She neglects to note that in the modern economy the poor guy doing his job at the Bank isn’t exactly George Bailey. Just a dude doing his job, and the almighty Lena Taylor (SLUM LORD?) asks for personal information regarding a different customer. Then she flips out.

    Instead of just saying “I got pissed and said something I shouldn’t have” she decides to make a thing of it. Which she considers “speaking truth to power”. Except the power is laughing, and her allies are shaking their heads. My personal experience in banking is that not a lot of customers of any race start spouting off with the N-word. She of course is right that culturally it is acceptable in many circumstances for African Americans to use the word. However, I am aware of no one saying it is OK to demean a clerk like that IN FRONT OF A COP. She seems full of her self but whatever. Arrogance is bad, but sometimes just being stupid is bad enough.

  3. Bruce described the Lena I knew, early easy to champion and as time went by the exact opposite of growing on you, rubbing things the wrong way with her manners and some bizarre policy choices.

  4. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    lots of liars where. Anyone that works in Inner city hears the N word thousand times day. it is used as swear word, friendly hello, term of endearment.

  5. Beth says:

    It’s my impression that some individuals who become state senators or representatives, ultimately aren’t suited for the job. They’re well-meaning and very driven at first, but maybe with time, they’re unable to make the transition from charismatic candidate to full-time politician. These stories about her or her staff seem to indicate that. Personally, I would not have called a press conference. It was an embarrassing error, why create more negative attention?

  6. Patrick says:

    Her press conference was ridiculous, how she excused her self from using the N-word based on race. In a professional environment now matter what your skin color is, that is not appropriate. I wouldn’t expect white people to be calling each other “Bro” in business meeting. I applaud her for exposing the process of relieving a disgruntled employee in government. If the tax payers knew from local to state to federal how some employees act they would be shocked how irresponsibly their money is spent, as road and schools crumble.

  7. GRNPAKWH says:

    It is time for Sen. Taylor, who is my state senator, to resign, she has lost all credibility.

  8. David says:

    The most important things we learn in life are from our kindergarten teachers – she needs a time out for name calling and can only rejoin circle time on the carpet when she is ready to apologize.
    The analogy is apropos since everyone will know she is as sincere as a 5 year old.

    In reference to her statement of “LaTonya Johnson is no Lena Taylor” – I met Senator Johnson last year at my place of employment when she was looking to update some stuff in her Milwaukee office. She did not lord herself over me or my colleagues in any way. As I recall it, she didn’t even introduce herself with her title! It was only after her assistant gave me a business card that I realized she had a position of power.I had no clue who she was or that she was a STATE Senator. She was VERY polite about my lack of knowledge, explained who she represented, and we moved on in our conversation.

    “LaTonya Johnson is no Lena Taylor.”

    Good thing I made that mistake with a decent person like Senator Johnson. If is had been Lena Taylor who I made that mistake with I don’t think the conversation would have ended well.

    My personal political views are not in line with either of them but between the two of them Senator Johnson would have my vote!

  9. Thomas Spellman says:

    WCD Hummm “thousand of times a day the n word is used” and where are you in this community to KNOW that verses relating what other claim which in the final analysis is not true? Hummmm as I say and you still can not use your name even though your name is known by some. You still can honor your family by using your name. Peace Thomas Spellman

  10. John says:

    Ms. Taylor is my senator. Some years ago I and others from Milwaukee had an appointment with her in Madison on Conservation Lobby Day. After waiting more than fifteen minutes past appointment time (not unreasonable) she came out of her office with someone who left, and she asked what we wanted there. We reminded her of our appointment and reminded her of our purpose. The response? “Well, talk to my staff! I’ve got a salad wilting!” That said as she closed her door on us!
    Do you suppose she paid any heed to what we discussed with her staff? Fat chance. Will I ever vote for her? Need you ask?

  11. Jimbo says:

    She can behave however she wants. She can say whatever she wants. Voters can decide whether to keep her or dump her.

  12. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I work in the Inner city in several cities, every day, worked for decades in nursing homes pharmacist that worked with, dealt with inner city people in pharmacy daily hundreds.
    Most people on this site are scared to go down there. just got back with working with some people on MLK blvd.
    I prefer to work with Black and Hispanic peoel much easier than white people to get along with daily

  13. OB says:

    How often when you hear people saying: “I am not afraid to speak the truth” turns out that the truth is exactly what they are not saying? Well, this is another of those cases.

  14. Rita says:

    In response to: “lots of liars where. Anyone that works in Inner city hears the N word thousand times day. it is used as swear word, friendly hello, term of endearment.” A PROFESSIONAL PERSON WOULD NOT USE THE N-WORD…AT ALL, EXCEPT MAYBE AT HOME


  15. Troll says:

    Taylor may have some character flaws but she is pragmatic. I will vote for her every time on my Glendale ballot over a Marxist.

  16. Joan says:

    Hey, wasn’t she doing what President Trump does all the time ? But she’s black and she’s female, so, no she can’t get away with it!

  17. Joan says:

    What do you mean moderation? Do you mean clarification or do you think it was derogatory? I’m simply stating a fact. I’m not putting her down. I’m just saying that a white male gets away with boorish behavior but a black female is derided for the same sort of thing.

  18. LenaTaylorNeedsToResign says:

    Hopefully Wells Fargo will ban her physically from any of their branches, so she can take the time she needs, and mature to the point where she can deal with others as an adult. Her actions are those of an immature child.

  19. Patrick says:

    I’ve read all the comments. Some good, some funny. I used to like Lena, had a lot of respect for her until she started to use her position to jump to the head of the line. That turned me off.

  20. Bill Kurtz says:

    David is right about LaTonya Johnson. Anytime I’m at the state capitol I try to stop in and say hello because she’s as good as a legislator gets. She sincerely wants to do the best job she can in representing her constituents.

  21. dragonkat says:

    ? for all of you

    All this talk about Lena Taylor but nobody has said anything about running for her State. Sen seat

    we have a saying in IL, ” if your not going to run for that seat you need to STFU “

  22. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Why don’t I get excited about lena Taylor? I work in and around the Inner city for over 50 years in pharmacy, businesses, apts. and hear the N word used all day long as a term of endearment between Blacks, a swear word between them and order word by parents and others, and lots more.
    If you re white, please do not use it. I love working with inner city people they are much easier to work with than white people who are all PC, and uptight all time.

  23. MKE Kid says:

    WCD = A dinosaur frantically squawking in the underbrush and trying to fit in while mammals are taking over.
    Dole out some more handfuls of opioids while you’re at it

  24. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Just what I said: MKE up tight, loosen your shorts and breathe.

  25. DAG999 says:

    She certainly would not win the Miss Congeniality award now would she? But then, by her own admission, she speaks differently to different races of people and says it is okay for “some” to do so.

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