As if the recent political debate between Congressman John Barrow and Republican challenger Rick Allen wasn’t bad enough with the sudden change of venue from the Islamic Community Center to the Evans Government Complex, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution managed to prove things could get even worse.
Jim Galloway, a political columnist for the Atlanta newspaper, wrote last week about an awkward moment between one of the event’s organizers and the chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party prior to the debate.
Galloway called it the “Hand Shake Incident.”
“The event organizer was 73-year-old Dr. Hossam Fadel, an Egyptian-American and now-retired physician recruited to Augusta in 1975 by the Medical College of Georgia,” Galloway wrote in his Oct. 1 column. “Also in the room was Dewey Galeas, chairman of the Columbia County GOP.”
While there was about to be plenty of tension on stage between Barrow and Allen, Galloway wrote that some members of the audience were also making the political forum extremely awkward.
Specifically, Galeas and his refusal to shake Fadel’s hand prior to the debate.
“I made every attempt to avoid the man,” Galloway quoted Galeas as saying. “I walked by (Fadel), acknowledged him, thanked him for his hospitality, and then I walked on.”
But apparently Fadel didn’t back down and offered his hand to Galeas.
“The county GOP chairman refused,” Galloway wrote. “Galeas said it wasn’t Fadel’s Muslim religion that motivated the slight, but his own ‘deep religious conviction over abortion.’”
Was Galeas serious?
Fadel is a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who has more than 50 years of experience in helping women with high-risk pregnancies. He is one of the country’s leading experts on pregnancy in diabetics.
Many of his former patients have described Fadel as one of the most compassionate doctors in this area.
To even imply that he is an “abortion doctor” who kills babies is beyond deeply insulting and goes against everything Fadel has worked his entire life to achieve.
For more than 50 years, Fadel saved babies’ lives and treated women who were facing the unimaginable: A pregnancy that threatened the life of their unborn child.
Beyond that, Fadel’s amazing career as a physician should have played no role in the Barrow/Allen political forum.
By organizing the debate, Fadel was simply trying to educate the community about the two congressional candidates.
He had no hidden agendas.
In fact, when a Metro Spirit reporter talked to Fadel a day before to the debate, he was nothing but thankful that both Allen and Barrow were participating, regardless of the change of venue.
And let’s be honest, that Metro Spirit reporter was trying to get Fadel to talk about some of the questionable press releases that were being distributed by Allen’s spokesman Dan McLagan prior to the debate.
Specifically, McLagan’s quote that stated, “It is interesting that the only two standing shoulder to shoulder on this topic are John Barrow and a Muslim cleric who are attacking Rick Allen together. Barrow’s obviously close association with the head of the Islamic Center is his affair but it does make this a suspect venue for us.”
But Fadel remained completely respectful of both candidates and did not even think of disparaging Allen’s camp.
“We just wanted to provide a public service to this community,” Fadel told the Metro Spirit reporter. “And we are happy that the political forum is moving forward, wherever the location.”
Anyone who refuses to shake Fadel’s hand needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Fortunately, the Metro Spirit isn’t alone in that feeling.
Steve Crawford, the publisher of The Columbia County News-Times, wrote a column last week after also observing Galeas’ snub of Fadel and he was equally furious.
“Being a child of the South, I found this demonstration of discourtesy to be outrageous,” Crawford wrote in his Oct. 1 column. “It upset me and I let Galeas know how I felt after the debate. He has since apologized to Fadel, as have I to Galeas for my brief Scots-Irish tirade.”
“But I think the handshake incident is indicative of a larger problem that has infiltrated American society and especially our politics,” Crawford added. “Everyone seems to be so focused on the each other’s differences that we can’t come together anymore for anything.”
Hats off to Crawford for his well-written column and moderating the political debate.
A few weeks ago, the actions of his employers by pulling the News-Times cosponsorship of the forum truly hurt the community.
It appeared the leadership at The Augusta Chronicle didn’t care about burning bridges.
But Crawford’s open-mindedness and obvious respect for Fadel and the Islamic Society of Augusta proved that theory wrong.
In the end, Crawford’s leadership may have actually built more bridges than his bosses burned.