- (Photo: Reuters / Jessica Rinaldi)
University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom has set off a firestorm in Iowa because of his comments in an article in The Atlantic magazine that described Iowans as “uneducated Jesus freaks who love hunting and don’t deserve the political clout they will exercise on Jan. 3.”
Bloom, who is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, is taking criticism from many of the state’s more prominent citizens, including Dr. Sally Mason, the president of the University of Iowa, where he is employed.
“I disagree strongly with and was offended by Professor Bloom’s portrayal of Iowa and Iowans,” wrote Mason in an open letter to The Atlantic. “Please know that he does not speak for the University of Iowa.”
Bloom, citing “uncomfortable truths and unconventional truths” as the reason he penned the article, wanted to challenge why Iowa should retain its coveted position as the first political contest in the race for the White House.
Calling the state “politically schizophrenic with Republicans living west of Des Moines and Democrats to the east,” Bloom tried to reason that Iowa lacked the sophistication and was unworthy to receive the amount of attention that is given to a state that could make or break a candidate’s political future.
Bloom, who is Jewish and a native of New Jersey, said Iowans talked constantly of “Jesus and hunting” and that the Hawkeye state could be “the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.”
However, Hillary Clinton and Pat Robertson may disagree since both won their party’s caucus but neither went on to secure their respective party’s nomination.
Even Democrats are incited by Bloom’s remarks.
“Professor Bloom is engaging here in just a remarkable level of stereotyping. He should know better,” Sue Dvorsky, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Iowa told The Associated Press. “He’s done two great books and life in Iowa. This commentary is not worthy of him.”
Nevertheless, Bloom is standing behind his comments.
“You can chip away if you want at this story, but it raises some fundamental central issues that Iowans and Americans need to confront,” Bloom said in an interview with the AP. “I think America should sit down and have a collective discussion on the wisdom of how we select our president and how inordinately important Iowa is in that process.”
Even Bloom’s fellow professors are irritated by his article: “I always thought you were a huge (expletive) ... but your Atlantic piece sunk my opinion of you further – and I didn't think it could get that low. Go (expletive) yourself, you smug, self important jerk.”
But Bloom’s more intriguing criticism came from Alex Johnson, a former journalism student at the University of Iowa.
“I believe you trashed Iowa unjustly…Furthermore, you greatly generalize the apparently demoralized, moribund life of those rural Iowans,” Johnson wrote in a guest editorial in The Daily Iowan.
“The saddest part of this is he’s a journalism professor for crying out loud!” Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican added. “This is a condescending piece that I’m ashamed to say was funded by my constituents’ tax dollars.”