Opinion

In April 1 satire, Peck — already planning his next apology — is named Kansas cultural ambassador

April 1, 2021 3:33 am

Opinion contributor Max McCoy imagines Sen. Virgil Peck (in white) receiving a ceremonial title from his GOP colleagues following last month’s speech on “God’s special creation — females.” (March 3, 2021, photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sen. Virgil Peck has been named the Sunflower State’s cultural ambassador.

The Southeast Kansas Republican, who has long been known for his incendiary oratory and old-fashioned bigotry, was given the largely ceremonial title by his GOP colleagues in the Kansas Senate. Peck gained national recognition in 2011 when he deftly proposed a modest if porcine solution to the nation’s immigration problem.

“Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem,” Peck said as a state representative during a legislative committee hearing. The quote was quickly picked up by CNN and other national outlets.

Displaying typical modesty, Peck later claimed he had been joking. He later told an interviewer that he had “apologized hundreds of times since” for the comment.

Peck, 62, is a self-employed insurance salesman from the hamlet of Havana, just above the Oklahoma line in Montgomery County. Based on Peck’s actions, socio-geographers estimate that Havana is approximately 200 years southeast of Wichita. Peck has a long rap sheet as a lawmaker, having previously served in the Kansas House from 2005-2016. He was elected to the Senate in 2020.

Among his noteworthy accomplishments as a state representative was being flown in 2015 as the only passenger in a Kansas Highway Patrol aircraft from Coffeyville to Topeka to vote in favor of a block grant funding bill for K-12 education. Peck had been in Coffeyville, where he had been attending events with then-Gov. Sam Brownback. The House delayed the vote for two hours, waiting for Peck to arrive. Although Peck’s vote ultimately did not decide the matter, block grant funding — a rushed measure meant to defy a court order to distribute school funds equitably — did pass. The plan was later declared unconstitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court, which found the state was failing to meet its obligation to provide children with an equal education, no matter if their communities were rich or poor. Peck’s same-day-air support of the block grant scheme was essential to his bid for cultural ambassador because it demonstrated his embrace of a primary GOP tenet: Poverty is a matter of “personal responsibility” even for children.

During his first legislative session as a state senator, last month, Peck demonstrated that he had lost none of his political savvy or stone age sensibilities during a heated debate over a bill to ban transgender women and girls from school sports. The proposed legislation, which passed 24-10, would limit participation in sports to an individual’s “biological sex.”

During the debate, Peck said he believes in chivalry and stands rigidly for “God’s special creation — females.” Peck may be unaware of the 1956 Roger Vadim film, “And God Created Woman,” starring sex kitten Brigitte Bardot, which was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency. The film set a box office record for the Kimo Theatre in Kansas City.

As the two-and-half hour debate continued with badly outnumbered Senate Democrats, Peck barked and growled and went on to deliver an impassioned plea that invoked snowflakes and emasculating fanny packs.

“Are we, American men, going to take a stand and defend our young ladies so they can receive a great scholarship to an institution of higher learning?” Peck asked. “Have we men given away our man card to the snowflakes? Are we going to allow someone to carry our manhood around in their fanny pack or in their purse? Are there no longer any alpha males?”

The reference to “fanny pack,” apparently, is to a pouch-like bag strapped around the waist that was popular in the last decade of the previous century. These fanny pouches are making somewhat of a comeback lately, according to the Wall Street Journal, which called the device a “messenger bag crossed with a colostomy bag.” Men now favor slinging the pack over a shoulder, keeping it well away from the vulnerable fanny area.

In response to the call for “alpha males,” Senate President and metrosexual Ty Masterson, R-Andover, jumped up on the rostrum and began to vigorously beat his chest. Before Masterson could engage any of the other members of the upper chamber, however, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms managed to strike Masterson in the neck with a dart from a tranquilizer gun kept on hand for just such occasions. At last report, Masterson was resting comfortably in the elephant cage at the Topeka Zoo.

Although unclear at the time, Peck’s reference to “an institution of higher learning” apparently refers to Appleyard College, a private boarding school near Victoria, in western Kansas. The century-old school was the inspiration for the 1975 Australian film “Picnic at Hanging Rock.” The Appleyard institution is a “voucher” school and its handbills declare it offers a curriculum guaranteed to turn biological girls into proper and gender-conforming ladies.

Peck had some competition as the state’s new cultural ambassador from Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita. While Peck ultimately won the honor, Suellentrop’s surprisingly wild police chase, the day before the debate, made him a GOP caucus favorite.

Suellentrop has been charged with DUI and felony fleeing after allegedly driving his white SUV at 90 mph the wrong way on Interstate 70 in downtown Topeka. Suellentrop, who had failed to show up to a morning legislative session, was originally arrested by Capitol Police on suspicion of driving under influence, speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, and attempting to flee or evade law enforcement, but was released after a judge said she found there was a lack of pertinent information presented in court documents to find probable cause. In the days that followed, Suellentrop said he was stepping away from his duties as majority leader, but post-arrest continued to steer bills. More than a week after the escapade, the Shawnee County District Attorney filed criminal charges — including the felony count — and Suellentrop was booked into jail. He is now free on $5,000 bond.

Suellentrop’s GOP colleagues seemed unsure of how to react to the news of the Topeka chase, with some predictably calling for sensitivity and privacy for Suellentrop and his family, others calling the incident “unfortunate,” and most asking for prayers. The Republican leadership made no calls for sensitivity or prayers for Black suspects in police chases, which can unfortunately end when the suspect is shot dead.

But, in the end, Suellentrop’s flashy police chase was not enough to unseat Peck’s grip on the title. In declaring Peck the winner, the GOP leadership cited his long and mindless service to a party that once represented traditional Kansas values.

At the conclusion of the ceremony appointing Peck as special cultural ambassador, he was led by his male colleagues into the nearest men’s room and made to drop his trousers and prove his credentials.

Peck will assume his new duties today, April 1.

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Max McCoy
Max McCoy

Max McCoy is an award-winning author and journalist. A native Kansan, he started his career at the Pittsburg Morning Sun and was soon writing for national magazines. His investigative stories on unsolved murders, serial killers and hate groups earned him first-place awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors and other organizations. McCoy has also written more than 20 books, the most recent of which is "Elevations: A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River," named a Kansas Notable Book by the state library. "Elevations" also won the National Outdoor Book Award, in the history/biography category. Max teaches journalism at Emporia State University.

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