Greg Ball is used to being the subject of controversy. He has been accused in the past of sexually assaulting an Albany waitress and stalking an ex-girlfriend. That girlfriend, a CNN employee, got a restraining order against the Republican state senator after he threatened to destroy her career and told her he had a sexually transmittable disease he hadn’t disclosed to her. He also at one point had a dead goat show up on his lawn, which he said was a threat from special interests he would not name.
Last year, Senate Republicans dragged up a lot of Ball’s past problems after Ball abandoned his Assembly seat to run for state Senate. Republicans weren’t particularly happy to have him fighting for a place on the ticket, so they dumped cash into the race to support his primary opponent, and took swipes at him every chance they could get.
After hearing that Ball was holding a “Women for Ball” event, Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reiff issued this statement to the Times Union: “This is a tired rerun of what happened two years ago when news first broke that Greg Ball had been hit with an order of protection for stalking his ex-girlfriend. The facts are the facts, and Greg Ball stands accused of groping a waitress at an Albany bar, an account several eyewitnesses confirmed. Today, he trots out a woman whose mother is on the payroll of Ball political ally Steve Katz to spread lies. Those accusations are slanderous and are subject to legal liability. The residents of Duchess, Putnam and Westchester counties are tired of the distractions, tired of the conspiracy theories and tired of all of the excuses. You can’t take anything Greg Ball says seriously.”
I bring this up because Ball has found himself some new controversy, and it may not be what you’d think; it isn’t about inappropriate contact with women.
Ball made up with his Senate GOP buddies and was even rewarded with a chairmanship; he now heads the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. And tomorrow (Friday) he will hold hearings in New York City on post-9/11 public safety. His guest list includes a number of controversial names. Nonie Darwish, an author and head of Former Muslims United, who has said that Islam “is not a true religion” is scheduled to testify, as is Frank Gaffney, an extremely vocal critic of a proposed Tennessee mosque. Perhaps Ball hopes this firestorm will appeal to his base and distract from the numerous scandals he has been involved in in the past.
Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker, who recently was convicted on two counts of criminal mischief for attacking a New York Post photographer, took issue with those two guests. “It’s not appropriate when you have people who have no homeland security, no anti-terrorism background, but their whole stock and trade has been to say anti-Islamic references and to denigrate Muslims,” Parker said in an interview with Capitol Tonight, adding, “It’s certainly not appropriate, certainly does not help to racially profile Muslims in terms of a homeland security perspective.”
Ball responded by saying that Parker doesn’t understand the basis of the hearings. “Nonie is going to talk about her experiences,” Ball told Capitol Tonight. “I think 32, 33 years of growing up in a culture where she was taught at a very young age to not just to hate Israel, but the United States of America. We have to understand our enemy.”
Ball also accused Parker, who is from Brooklyn, of trying to rack up political points. Funny, because Ball’s hearings sound a lot like controversial hearings on “Muslim radicalization” recently held by Rep. Peter King. Guess what? The New York Observer caught up with King, who not only approves of Ball’s hearings but plans on testifying.
“This is a first-rate hearing,” King told the Observer. “I hear some rumblings from people opposed to it. I just wish the Muslim community and the leadership would be much more cooperative on these hearings, not see everything as being an attack on them.” King also offered some handy advice to Ball, telling him to brace himself for a media firestorm.
Don’t worry, Congressman. We doubt Ball is dumb enough to have decided to hold these hearings without expecting to get a lot of attention for them. I doubt you were naïve enough to hold your hearings not expecting to inflame and aggravate a situation and score points with your base. It’s a shameless kind of politicking that stokes fear, divides neighborhoods, inflames violence, incites violent rhetoric and makes America just a little bit less American.
But there is one highlight of Ball’s hearings and the guests he decided to call. Maybe, just maybe, it puts us closer to a hearing on “New York State Senators Who Used to Be Assemblyman Who Have a Hard Time Treating Women Like Humans.” I imagine there would be more than one witness lined up to testify in front of that committee.