Time For Foxx to Retire

Representative Virginia Foxx on the set of Triad Today in 2006

Actress Suzanne Somers
Virginia Foxx is not like most Washington politicians who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouths. In fact, she may not have even had a spoon. Growing up in Avery County, Virginia’s family was so poor that in order to make ends meet, she took a job as a janitor at the high school she was attending. She persevered and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill then went on to teach English at Appalachian State University, followed by a stint as president of Maryland Community College. Her first taste of politics came while serving as Gov. Jim Martin’s Deputy Secretary of Management. That led to a successful run for the state Senate where she served from 1994 until 2004. That year, 5th District Congressman Richard Burr decided to jump from the House to the United States Senate, creating a crowded field of Republican candidates who wanted to succeed him. That’s when I got to know Virginia Foxx.

Then as now, the 5th district is so heavily Republican that whoever snags the nomination for Congress is all but assured of a victory in the general election. That’s why eight Republicans lined up to run in a July primary for Burr’s vacated seat. Known only to voters in Watauga County, Virginia finished in second place behind the bombastic Vernon Robinson who billed himself as “the Black Jesse Helms,” and was, in many ways, Trump before Trump. Robinson had served on Winston-Salem City Council and made a name for himself for outrageous statements and stunts, like the time he placed a replica of the Ten Commandments on the courthouse steps, or took credit for creating charter schools. Unfortunately for Vernon, his margin of victory over Foxx wasn’t large enough to avoid a run-off. That set up their one and only face-to-face debate which I moderated as part of a Triad Today special.

On August 4, 2004, just prior to the run-off election, Foxx and Robinson sat down with me for a half-hour discussion and debate. At one point, Robinson took a veiled swipe at Foxx for being a woman who never served in the military.


VR: I’m the only person in this race with military experience…I served as a missile combat crew commander.

JL: Exactly in what war did you serve?

VR: [pauses to think] The Cold War.

JL: But you’ve often talked about your combat experience. Did you engage in combat?

VR: No, but I’m a veteran.


I also questioned Robinson about his Education Reform Foundation.


JL: Your Foundation has a budget of $107,000, but you pay yourself $104,000, leaving only $3,000 for reform.

VR: [pauses] Uh, that was over three years.


In the years since that famous debate, I’ve been told that my fact-checking line of questioning cost Vernon the election. If that’s so, then you can blame me for putting Virginia Foxx in Congress. But it was also during that broadcast nearly 20 years ago that Virginia said something which is now coming back to haunt her. Said Ms. Foxx, “The people of this district deserve a dignified, hard-working person who wants to serve them.”

After taking her seat in Congress, Virginia was dignified. She was a model representative, not only attending every House vote but showing up at numerous events back home in the district. I referred to her as, “the hardest working woman in Congress,” a tag that still applies today. I was honored when, in 2005, Virginia took to the floor of the House and read a proclamation in recognition of my work on Triad Today. Said Foxx, “Mr. Speaker, the press has a responsibility to fulfill its role as the fourth estate, that is to serve as a guardian of democracy and defender of the public interest. I am pleased to congratulate Triad Today for its outstanding commitment to keeping the community informed.” 

But somewhere along the way, Virginia started to change. She went from being dignified to being arrogant and angry. She also became a camera hound who managed to wrangle herself beside Republican presidents and leaders during State of the Union addresses and press conferences. And, Virginia became such a partisan that she didn’t care what bilge she spewed, like when she frightened her own elderly constituents by telling them that Obamacare would create death camps for older people. Worst of all she forgot how to act with and around anyone who disagreed with her increasingly far-right-wing ideologies. She also forgot her pledge to be dignified and to defend the free press, as we saw recently when she yelled at a reporter.

That was the day homophobic insurrection supporter Mike Johnson was named Speaker of the House. Afterward, Virginia pushed her way to the front of Johnson’s impromptu press conference where a reporter from ABC News asked the Speaker about his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. Before Johnson could respond, the gaggle of fellow election deniers behind him laughed at the question. Then, Virginia jumped in and shouted to the reporter, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from my friend who once pledged to be “dignified.” This was the same woman who, when honoring Triad Today, called the press, “guardians of democracy and defenders of the public interest.” Her outburst at the ABC reporter was alarming, not just because it was scary rude, but because it said a lot about how far Virginia Foxx has devolved from being a polite partisan into a self-appointed censor of anyone who doesn’t believe the lies that she and her right-wing colleagues spin with great regularity.

Thanks to GOP gerrymandering, Virginia Foxx, now 80 years old, is assured of a seat in Congress for as long as she wants it. I just wish she didn’t want it. She has become an embarrassment to our state and a symbol of everything that is wrong with politics in America. I wish Virginia would do the right thing and retire, but if she decides to remain in office, I just wish she would, to use her words, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”


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