Valley promoter uses remark to his gain

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2004

WASILLA State Sen. Ben Stevens started more than just a low-level uproar in the Matanuska Valley area last week when he dismissed an e-mailing critic as ''just more Valley trash.'' He started a cash cow.

Wasilla resident Robert Baker, president-elect of the city's chamber of commerce, said he has sold about 100 T-shirts bearing the words ''Proud to be Valley trash,'' along with the address of his new Web site,

The site features photos of happy shirt wearers frolicking in a Wasilla parking lot during an outdoor concert Saturday, along with links to the fictitious ''Ben Stevens 'Eating Crow' cookbook,'' a duet with rock singer Tom Petty called ''Don't Have to Live Like a Refuse-ee'' and a motivational tape in which Stevens ''shares the secrets of stereotyping for maximum impact.''

''I hope he doesn't apologize,'' Baker said by phone Monday. ''It would be bad for my business.''

The T-shirts, starting at $22 plus shipping and handling, come in black with white writing. State Rep. Vic Kohring wants a shirt ''extra large if he's got one.''

Anchorage radio talk show host Dan Fagan wants one ''to let the folks out there know I'm one of them,'' he said on his show on KFQD-750 AM Monday afternoon, though he followed that comment with something about a three-toothed guy in Palmer. And set aside one for the woman who started the whole flap, Wasilla resident D.L. Mooney, a road flagger who sent Stevens an e-mail message earlier this month accusing him of being ''nothing more than a whore'' after reading reports of his earnings as a consultant.

Stevens fired a message back to Mooney saying: ''Afraid to sign your name? Your just more Valley trash.''

''He didn't just attack me. He attacked the Valley,'' Mooney said Monday. ''Most of us do have all our teeth and stuff.''

Stevens, son of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, did not return a call for comment about the T-shirts Monday. But last week, the Anchorage Republican and Senate majority leader said that the e-mail conversation was not meant to become public and that his intent was never to insult Valley residents ''except for that woman who called me a whore.''

Kohring, a Wasilla resident up for re-election in November, said Stevens hit a nerve, as evidenced by about 25 calls and e-mail messages sent to his office about the ''trash'' talk.

''It was a comment that I think offended a lot of us. It certainly did me,'' he said. ''I think it was justifiable for people to say: 'This is wrong. We think the man misspoke. We are not Valley trash out here.' ''

Baker, who owns a graphic design company, North Star Multimedia, hoped to persuade Gov. Frank Murkowski to wear a shirt during a speech at the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Baker also plans to sell shirts at the Alaska State Fair, still about a month off.

''I think we have enough momentum,'' he said.

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