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Vargo Hires Journalist Huntington as Spokesman

Bob Mercer reports that Attorney General Mark Vargo has pulled another journalist off the beat and into state government:

Vargo brought aboard Stewart Huntington, a longtime reporter and editor at a variety of news organizations, to be his official spokesman.

Most recently, Huntington was based in the Minneapolis area while working as a contract reporter for Indian Country Today with a focus on national stories.

Prior stops in South Dakota included five years at KOTA-TV in Rapid City, four-plus years as founder and CEO of an internet startup, and 10 years as publisher of the Black Hills Pioneer newspaper based in Spearfish. He previously worked two years as managing editor at a Kansas newspaper and 10 years in various newsroom roles at the San Francisco Examiner [Bob Mercer, “SD’s AG Office Returns to Having a Spokesman,” KELO-TV, 2022.09.02].

Vargo hired Huntington about ten days ago, shortly after Huntington’s August 6 report in The Guardian saying good things about Pennington County’s “groundbreaking partnership with a group of Lakota elders to divert some cases into the new Oyate court, or people’s court, which employs a process based on Native Culture and aboriginal peacemaking principles that stress healing over punishment.” Huntington reported for KOTA-TV in 2019 on the diversion program Vargo started as state’s attorney in Pennington County. On his online résumé, Huntington describes his position at KOTA as “Indian Country Reporter“:

When riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, over racial imbalances in that city’s police force and practices, I called up management at KOTA TV and presented a proposition: Would they like a reporter to explore the landscape in Rapid City where the police force was all white and the jail population majority Native American? The answer was “yes” and I embarked on a five-year journalistic exploration of the racial and cultural enmity that simmers between the territory’s broader community and its Lakota minority – and the moments of comity and conciliation. My dedication to reflecting all perspectives in a given story – and in my body of work – was widely seen as unprecedented in the territory where the racial divide is often viewed as part of the fabric of life and not viewed as “newsworthy” except when tensions flair [sic] [Stewart Huntington, LinkedIn profile, retrieved 2022.09.03].

Huntington also organized an anti-racism picnic in Rapid City in June 2014 in response to Ku Klux Klan activity and other racist incidents in the Black Hills.

The state is paying Huntington an annual salary of $71,000. According to Open.SD.Gov, Marty Jackley’s spokesperson, Sara Rabern, ended at $69,569.76. Ravnsborg’s crony mouthpiece and chief of staff Tim Bormann, whom Vargo wisely axed on day one in the office, was getting $125,228.53.

During his brief stint as Department of Health coronavirus-downspinner, Trumpist import Daniel Bucheli got $83,328. (DOH doesn’t list a new spokesperson now; recent press releases and the staff directory direct inquiries to DOHMedia@state.sd.us, and other reports cite DOH generically.) Tony Mangan was getting $61,545.72 when all he had to do was speak for the Department of Public Safety; now that he also has to write and recite Governor Kristi Noem’s baloney, Mangan is getting $109,545.72. When Bob Mercer spoke for Governor Bill Janklow 20 years ago, he made $82,399.82.

14 Comments

  1. larry kurtz 2022-09-03 10:20

    What could Mr. Vargo have on Mrs. Noem that would have compelled her to appoint a progressive leaning attorney as South Dakota’s top cop?

  2. grudznick 2022-09-03 10:29

    Lar, in your wildest dreams you still cannot fathom the perversities that are probably involved. They are no doubt worse than the stuff you used to tell grudznick about back in the day.

  3. grudznick 2022-09-03 12:29

    These mouthpiece fellows do get pretty good breakfast change for really not having to work very hard.

  4. 96Tears 2022-09-03 15:04

    Um, is it me or should Noem’s campaign thugs view this guy as a threat to their anti-CRT purity test based on Huntington’s LinkedIn statement?

    “Would they like a reporter to explore the landscape in Rapid City where the police force was all white and the jail population majority Native American? The answer was ‘yes’ and I embarked on a five-year journalistic exploration of the racial and cultural enmity that simmers between the territory’s broader community and its Lakota minority – and the moments of comity and conciliation. My dedication to reflecting all perspectives in a given story – and in my body of work – was widely seen as unprecedented in the territory where the racial divide is often viewed as part of the fabric of life and not viewed as ‘newsworthy’ except when tensions flair. ”

    Where’s spokesmodel Ian Furry’s fury? How dare the Attorney General and his spokesman abide by these libbie sentiments that smack heavily of CRT divisive concepts thinking:

    – “the police force was all white and the jail population majority Native American”

    – “I embarked on a five-year journalistic exploration of the racial and cultural enmity that simmers”

    – “where the racial divide is often viewed as part of the fabric of life”

    But, – but – but – but what about all these divisive concepts??? All-white cop force keeping the Native American minority under foot? Recognizing there is a racial divide as part of the fabric of life? An Indian Country Today reporter? Remember, liar/racist Kristi Noem is repelled by reporters, especially those who see South Dakota’s fabric of life as infiltrated with “racial and cultural enmity that simmers”! She’s even willing to throw Rep. St. John, a Republican woman in good standing, under the bus for a cheap applause line at the next CPAC meeting.

    Folks, we’ve got divisive concepts! Right here in River City. Right there in the Attorney General’s office!

    And that’s a good thing.

  5. grudznick 2022-09-03 18:03

    Billiards is not the biggest issue in Rapid City. Billiards are bad, yes they are, but there are worse things that new dealing with.

  6. CK 2022-09-03 19:09

    I am obviously in the wrong profession.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-03 19:37

    “Billiards are bad???” Billiards are a noble and ennobling pastime. Every child should be taught the art and science of Billiards especially the variation known as Snooker.

  8. Bob Newland 2022-09-03 21:20

    Noem appoints Vargo, and then Vargo goes and hires a fairly literate fellow who most likely has nothing good to say about Noem’s CRT idiocy. Things could get smoky and hot around Pierre now. Not that Stew is likely to be saying much about CRT in this position, but one never knows.

  9. grudznick 2022-09-03 21:27

    Mr. Blundt. Please try and tie Mr. Tears fears about troubles in the River City with grudznick’s wry yet staggeringly shallow humor along with, and I know you could not have known about this, grudznick’s deep love for musicals. It makes me want to dance when we all see there is trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with P, which stands for “pool.” This is kind of like billiards.

    Which is kind of like snooker. Which grudznick is really bad at. Can you play it for money? Maybe I’d give it a go.

  10. 96Tears 2022-09-03 23:29

    Billiards, grudznick. I love all those red balls, as I am sure you do too. Yes, the other term is snooker. It requires a keen eye and bodily coordination. Not for the simple minded or weak hearts. Strong spines are helpful, as well as a sense of adventure. People who put money on snooker are not really snooker aficionados. That’s stupid. It’s a game of true skill and daring. It is its own reward. Love snooker!! Sadly, there aren’t too many snooker venues in South Dakota anymore.

    Does all that sausage gravy grease on your hands make it easier to slide that cue through your fingertips? Do you wash your hands before and after breakfast? Have you tried the side pork at Cheyenne Crossing yet? Damn, that’s tasty!

  11. Jess1 2022-09-04 08:04

    Yes! I was waiting for a Music Man reference.

  12. mike from iowa 2022-09-04 09:33

    Two kinds of snooker, Grudzilla. One you play and the one where you nget played. I think we all know which snookered you got.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-04 10:27

    Well, you know, Bob, we’ve been trying to explain to Governor Noem all along that real critical race theory is a graduate-level topic taught at law school, not in the K-12 system. Attorney General Vargo may ahve encountered CRT when he got his law degree at Georgetown in 1988. Maybe Vargo is really just another Republican, like St. John, who’s sneaking CRT into state government.

  14. Jake 2022-09-04 14:53

    This choice of Huntington is a good one-shows a “thinking AG” in the office, instead of a political one. Stew’s work record and back history show it all to be ‘people oriented’ the kind of thing Pierre is missing with the cureign or campaign for mouh-peices, thinking they will serve her recent governess. She hires throw-aways from Trump’s orbit, and hopes they will make her look good to us.
    This Stew Huntingtonwill do fine with Vargo. Too bad they won’t be our next 4 yrs in office.

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