3 minute read

Gov. Kevin Stitt is a troll king. Rather than assemble a top-flight political communications apparatus to effectively advance his agenda, he employs online trolls to Stitt-talk critics and diminish real concerns over his business dealings on behalf of the state. 

When many Oklahomans were filing their state taxes on deadline, Charlie Hannema, Stitt’s chief of communications, trolled taxpayers by tweeting from the scene of an alleged grift.

“Great day for a Winchester burger at Lake Murray! 10/10,” Hannema tweeted, accompanied by a photo of his hamburger, fries and soda from Swadley’s Foggy Bottom at Lake Murray State Park. This was in the same week that The Frontier published its investigation of the business relationship between Swadley’s, a chain of barbecue places that donates to and caters Republican fundraisers, and the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. 

OPINION by George Lang

According to the story by Brianna Bailey, Kayla Branch and Reese Gorman, the cost of having Swadley’s install Foggy Bottom locations at Oklahoma’s state parks rose to $16.7 million as the company charged the state for its management fees, financial losses, construction expenses and kitchen equipment.

This is, of course, absolutely awesome for Swadley’s. After all, how many mid-level barbecue chains get so many elements of their rapid business expansions subsidized by the state? 

Additionally, The Frontier reported evidence of real financial chicanery, like Swadley’s charging the state $51,346 for smokers that retail for $22,700. Someone in Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell’s office should be tasked with comparison shopping. 

But still, that tweet. 

Hannema’s social media strategy is in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party: nothing matters and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Oh, and we’ll make fun of you for caring about government ethics, nerd. 

Jami Cole, a teacher with the public school advocacy group Oklahoma Edvocates, tweeted her own frustration at the tone taken by Hannema and his colleagues.

“I have come to the conclusion that Stitt’s spokespeople are nothing more than paid trolls,” Cole wrote. “They’ve never offered substance in any issues. The latest is a posting of a hamburger, by a company under investigation by the OSBI, so of course they support it. Carry on.”

As an educator, Cole must deal directly with the online trolling by Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters, who takes every opportunity these days to crap all over public education and trans students in the most conserva-douchy manner available to him: behind the wheel. It’s where all your trolls take their avatar photos. 

On April 19, an annual day of mourning and remembrance for Oklahomans and a regular lesson on the power of unchecked hate, Walters played politics with Stillwater Public Schools resistance to Stitt’s hateful anti-trans policies, which he signed into law this month.

“This is so simple,” Walters said in a video shot in his bro-mobile. “This is not ‘Wokelahoma.’ This is Oklahoma.”

Walters learned the word “woke,” thinks he coined “Wokelahoma” and will not stop using it as an epithet against those who simply want their children to go to school without public ridicule. 

Stitt hires people who think throwing shade is a fair substitute for communicating. I can hardly wait to read what Hannema tweets about his boss’ blatantly Trumpian request for billions of taxpayer dollars to pay a company he will not identify to move to Oklahoma. 


George Lang is the professional opinion columnist for Oklahoma City Free Press. 

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Last Updated April 19, 2022, 3:03 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor