Kitchens: Attack ads don’t reflect character, record

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A series of attack ads portraying Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens as a defender of child abusers and sexual predators is a misrepresentation of his character and his record, Kitchens said Monday.

“Somebody takes a small segment of a case and twists it around to make me look like I’m sitting on the court in Jackson looking for loopholes for sexual predators to get out,” he told the Warren County Bar Association. “I’m not doing any of these things.”

Kitchens is seeking a second eight-year term on the state’s highest court against Appeals Court Judge Kenneth “Kenny” Griffis.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

By state law, the judicial races are supposed to be non-partisan, but the race for District 1 Place 3 on the court has taken a partisan turn, with Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves supporting Griffis.

The attack ads questioning Kitchens’ actions in two cases, one involving the rape of a 3-year-old child, and the other involving the beating death of another child were paid for by two outside political action committees — the Center for Individual Freedom based in Virginia, and the Improve Mississippi Political Action Committee.

Griffis said his campaign is not affiliated with either group or their ads.

Kitchens said he does not use attack ads or negative campaigning.

“I have never said anything bad about my opponent, ever, and I don’t intend to,” he said.

As for the ads, he said he is not allowing them to bother him.

“I’m not getting overwrought about this, but candidates can do things sometime,” he said. “At least you can go on TV and say, ‘I condemn this, this is wrong. This has no place in a judicial election campaign.’

“We try to keep our judges out of politics, as much as we can, and if they run a clean race like I and Judge Griffis have been doing, we ought not to have this outside interference.

The ads, however, are affecting his family.

“My mother is 102 years old. She watches television, and she sees some woman on TV telling her that her son is a nasty supporter of child abusers, and worst than that, my grandchildren see on commercial.”

Kitchens’ 12 grandchildren are in his commercials, he said, and they like to see themselves on television.

“These little kids get their parents to tune in to when their commercial will be on,” he said.
“Then here comes some woman on television that they don’t know and I don’t know and you don’t know and I don’t think anybody in Mississippi knows, and she’s sitting at the kitchen table talking and then she says, ‘Jim Kitchens has lost his way and up there on the Supreme Court looking for loopholes to help people who murder and sexually abuse little children.

“I hope some of you in this room who know me will tell those people who don’t know me, that is the antithesis of Jim Kitchens. That is not me.

“I’ve got 12 grandchildren. I was putting people in the penitentiary for child abuse while my honorable opponent was in junior high school. That’s not a criticism of him. It’s just I’m the old guy in this race, I’ve been around awhile and I’m not that sort of person.”

He said Monday he met an elderly woman in the Warren County Courthouse and asked for her vote.

“She said, ‘I’ve been hearing bad things about you,’ from the television ads.”

He said he tried to explain the ads and asked her to talk to people who knew him.

“Then she said, ‘If it’s not true how did the rumors get started?’”

Kitchens said he knows people have First Amendment rights, but said there needs to be some regulation of third-party attack ads.

“We’ve got the smartest lawyers in the United States in Mississippi. We ought to be able to figure something out. We need some reform. We don’t need appointed judges.

“Even if we did, we couldn’t get it in Mississippi. There’s still enough populism in the hearts of Mississippians, that they like electing their judges. They don’t want to change that.

“I am an old mossy back kind of a guy; this stuff rolls off my back,” he said. “This ain’t my first rodeo. I’ve been around the block. I can take this stuff.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John