By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Elected officials often project one image to the world and another to those who know them intimately. When those two images collide, the effect can be quite jarring.
Just ask Dallas Morning News reporter Craig Flournoy.
One can only imagine Flournoy's shock and/or glee when he learned that his office voice-mail recorder captured both a polite return phone call from the seemingly mild-mannered, amiable Mayor Ron Kirk, plus a foul-mouthed diatribe that the mayor launched after he mistakenly thought he had hung up.
The incident occurred after last Wednesday's council meeting. Flournoy had placed a call to the mayor earlier in the day. Flournoy would not talk about the incident--"The high sheriffs and grand poo-bahs here won't let us talk to the Dallas Observer," he said--so we're not sure why the reporter was calling the mayor. But we imagine it had something to do with the penetrating Sunday front-page story Flournoy wrote about the city's shameful habit of not spending federal funds targeted to improve conditions in poor neighborhoods.
Well, Flournoy never got to hear much of what Kirk had to say on that subject. But he got an earful, nonetheless. It seems that Kirk returned Flournoy's message on a speakerphone, which he inadvertently failed to disconnect. So the tape on Flournoy's voice-mail caught the following exchange, a copy of which was leaked to the Observer by someone outside the Morning News:
Kirk: "Craig, this is Ron Kirk. I've returned your call, and I'm going home."
Apparently, Kirk thinks he has hung up and begins talking to his aide. "Fuck Craig Flournoy. I didn't defend city staff as much as I don't agree with all of the underlying assertions of his article."
Aide: "You've had a big day."
Kirk: "Who is Kenneth Young? I mean, how do some of these people get on here and I don't know who in the fuck they are or what they want? I mean, fuck these people calling here and saying, 'Don't call between two and five.' Who is Kenneth Young? It's a 670- [City Hall] number."
Aide: "I'm not sure who that is."
Kirk: "Well, I want to know. And I'm not calling. I'm not calling any more people that I don't know."
Aide: "Ha, Ha."
Kirk: Well, I don't. I mean, shit, Wanda [Jordan, the mayor's secretary] will. I still marvel at the people that get on my list. I mean some son-of-a-bitch can call me up about security and Wanda puts them on my list with no questions, and then I get out and people that I don't meet, you know, kick my ass because they've got to tell them who they are and why they've done this and all that shit, and somebody like that just gets on there. That's the one thing that I still worry about, her up-and-down fucking attitude."
The mayor, meanwhile, was a lot more circumspect when the Observer asked him about the mishap. All he would say is, "I returned the reporter's phone call." But in a recent meeting he had with Observer staff, the mayor did allow that he often uses salty language.
"I'll scream and fuss with anybody," the mayor said. "I fuss and cuss at [Dallas Morning News publisher] Burl Osborne and everyone else I can find standing still."
Far be it from the Observer to think there's anything wrong with the mayor's language. Hell, no. We do believe that Flournoy had the best response, however: He taped a transcript of the recording right in the newspaper's office next to a Morning News article about Kirk being named the YMCA's "Father of the Year.