On Friday, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s office released their new county-by-county “Red to Green” COVID-19 plan, which has been noted is a major flip-flop in policy on her part. Her staff, which has already adopted a general tone of hostility toward all New Mexicans, is now blatantly condescending local news stations, including the liberal KOB 4.
KOB 4 News sent questions to the Governor’s office asking about the new strategy since they were not allowed to ask questions during the announcement Zoom meeting, as reporters usually are allowed to do. (Not the Piñon Post, however, since we have not been granted such access despite multiple correspondences).
KOB Reporter Grace Reader asked simple questions to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s communications director Tripp Stelnicki, was met with pompous and condescending responses. Some responses questioned the reporter’s intelligence, some blasted county officials, and some answers so short that they didn’t adequately provide responses.
Reader asked Stelnicki, “Will county leaders be notified when they’re good to move to the next color via the state? Or do they need to be checking the DOH webpage every other Wednesday?”
Stelnicki responded with:
The map updates every other Wednesday. If county officials care about the spread of COVID in their communities, they are already checking this map regularly to identify the risks to their constituents so they can protect their communities they represent. County leaders are well-compensated and qualified professionals who are more than capable of reading the public health order and communicating within their own communities.
In another question, Reader asked, “For business owners who are going to be monitoring these developments closely to see what they can and can’t be doing, where do they need to be looking? Does the state have any concern that this county-by-county approach will confuse businesses and patrons about what they’re allowed to be doing?”
Stelnicki returned with a more long-winded response full of snark, but this time taking a jab at the reporter, appearing to question her ability to read attachments from the Governor’s news release:
Did you read the attachment to the news release yesterday and find it confusing? Please let us know if we can help you understand it. Three colors is not confusing. Checking a website— or asking your county to check a website—once every two weeks is not difficult. Many other states operate precisely this way. Many communities and legislators, particularly Republican legislators, have been demanding exactly this county-by-county framework for months, please make the time to ask them whether they are glad to see it now and hold them accountable to their prior statements on the matter. These questions assume that this method of enacting and publicizing the restrictions is somehow comprehensively different than what has been the case for the last 9 months. It is not. Businesses and anyone else who wants to monitor these developments can look to the exact same places they’ve been looking. The levels will be clearly demarcated on the state’s websites. We are creating web widgets they can use on their own websites.
Reader then asked, “We noticed that for the first time, close quarters businesses are being asked to open at 25 percent capacity or 10 people, whichever is smaller. Can you tell us what forced the 10 people cap to be added to the capacity requirement? Additionally, did you all consider lifting the 75 person requirement on essential retail businesses (I know a lot of people have been upset about the lines at large box stores)?”
As usual, Stelnicki responded by claiming the hours-long lines New Mexicans have been standing in to get basic goods and food are a “minor inconvenience.”
His response in-full:
A line is a minor inconvenience, for which the state is sympathetic. The state is also sympathetic to the overworked nurses and doctors in the state’s hospitals and the thousands of families who are suffering and grieving right now The state will continue to prioritize saving lives and protecting New Mexicans while providing for as much safe economic day-to-day activity as possible.
The Piñon Post reported on the long lines last week after the Governor’s office told KOB 4 that the lines were just “Republican talking points.” The office also claimed, “The state is not forcing anyone to stand in a crowded line, as you suggest.” Coincidentally, Stelnicki now appears to be punishing the television station (a station that has bent over backward to placate the Lujan Grisham Administration at every turn: see below) with his latest tantrum, throwing not only the reporter under the bus, but also county officials, New Mexicans, and Republicans in general for pointing out the Governor’s massive flip-flop on policy.
New Mexicans responded to the Governor’s office’s latest snark-fest on Twitter.
State Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-Truth or Consequences), wrote, “Just wow! Her SILENCE towards his condescending tone IS AGREEMENT. Apparently we are not ‘all in this together’”
Matt García Síerra wrote, “Hey NM media, kudos for keeping @GovMLG staffers honest. Their petty responses indicate you’re making them do their jobs. You know, the jobs they’re still cashing in on, while New Mexicans are unemployed.”
It should be noted that Stelnicki and his counterparts in the Governor’s office have full funding and do not face budget cutbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, the Governor’s staffers make around $100,000 each annually.
Grace Reader herself even took to Twitter, sharing the Q&A article and writing, “As a reporter, it’s my job to ask questions, especially when your livelihood and health is at stake. Today we asked about the next phase of the public health order, here’s how the state responded to those questions”
The condescending responses by Stelnicki are just the latest from him toward anyone daring to offer substantive questions or points he disagrees with. In April, Stelnicki wrote on Twitter that Republicans are a “death cult.” The Governor’s office did not apologize or respond. However, Stelnicki went silent for months, with Lujan Grisham’s press secretary Nora Sackett speaking publicly for the office in the interim.
Sackett is also known for being hostile to the press, such as in September when Española Mayor Javier Sanchez rebuked the Governor for chiding Españolans on mask-wearing despite only observing the alleged non-compliance from the back seat of her chauffeured car.
Sackett said, “Every media outlet that covered the mayor of Española’s self-righteous op ed will now also cover his flagrant hypocrisy and violation of the public health order, right?”
Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Sackett claimed, “New Mexico Republicans want you and your loved ones to get COVID-19 and potentially die” because the Party called out the Governor’s unreasonable 5-person household limit for gatherings.
It should also be noted that every time the Piñon Post has reached out to Nora Sackett or Tripp Stelnicki for comment, we have never heard a word back, and instead have had to use the Information of Public Records Act (IPRA) any time we have had a question regarding the Lujan Grisham Administration. On average, this process takes two weeks to produce information, and it is mostly not adequate due to redactions.