Archie Parnell’s shameful secret (which hasn’t shamed HIM enough to get him to bow out)


Well, I guess I feel pretty foolish for having given Archie Parnell a hard time for not shaving his beard.

But you know why political consultants will tell you to do that? So that voters won’t wonder what you’re hiding.

It turns out Parnell has been concealing something far, far worse than a weak chin:

Top South Carolina candidate refuses to quit congressional race after abuse discovery

Archie Parnell, a Democratic congressional hopeful who earned national attention after nearly winning in deep red South Carolina last year, is resisting pleas to withdraw after his campaign staff discovered that he physically abused his ex-wife in the 1970s.

In divorce records obtained by The Post and Courier, Kathleen Parnell said the marriage deteriorated after two years in 1973 because of “unwarranted accusations” from her husband.

In October 1973, Archie Parnell, then a University of South Carolina student, was locked out of some friends’ apartment to protect Kathleen Parnell, who was staying there. At 2 a.m., Archie Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door, the complaint said. He made more unspecified accusations to Kathleen Parnell before striking her several times. She said she was beaten again later that evening.

After the “acts of physical cruelty,” Kathleen Parnell said she feared for her life and did not want to stay married. She obtained a restraining order against Archie Parnell after seeking the divorce, according to court documents. The divorce was finalized in early 1974….

When this came out his campaign manager immediately quit, saying “He has no business running for Congress and he never did.”

But Parnell himself won’t quit.

I feel ridiculous for having to say this, but he should. A man doesn’t hit a woman. Ever. Even when it was a long, long time ago.

Oh, and by the way — his party agrees with me:

Columbia, SC –South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson released the following statement on Monday after the Post & Courier reported that he physically abused his then-wife in 1973:
““In light of this sad revelation, Archie Parnell has no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District. His actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.”

38 thoughts on “Archie Parnell’s shameful secret (which hasn’t shamed HIM enough to get him to bow out)

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    From James Smith on the subject:

  2. Doug Ross

    Hmm… So people can’t repent, can’t change, can’t change?
    This was decades ago. Has he demonstrated any similar behavior since then?

    Compare his past misdeeds to those currently being performed on a daily basis by Dan Johnson and members of the Richland county council… Nobody is calling for them to resign.. I wonder why? Oh, I don’t really wonder…

    1. Barry

      They can but people dont forget.

      It’s better he bows out now and I am glad James Smith and others are calling him to do so. It’s the right thing to do.

      Separately, plenty of self righteous Republicans will absolutely hammer him and his entire family on the issue when he runs against Ralph “whip out my pistol in public” Norman.

      Better to do the right thing now.

    2. Kay Packett

      Doug. He struck her “several times.” She “was beaten again later that evening” and “feared for her life.” But let’s give him a pass? Also: I need to know that the Richland County Council is doing that’s worse than domestic abuse.

      1. Claus2

        What happened right before the initial beating? Was she also drunk and hitting him? All I’m reading is what she said. What is his side of the story?

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug — seriously? You consider reckless overspending to be comparable to beating a woman repeatedly?

      Sorry, but spending all the money in the world on whiskey and loose women ranks lower to me on the evil-meter than striking a woman even once, ever…

      1. bud

        spending all the money in the world on whiskey and loose women ranks lower to me on the evil-meter than striking a woman even once, ever…

        Wouldn’t it depend on the circumstances? If some crazy woman was coming at one of your grandchildren with a knife wouldn’t it not only be ok to strike her but an obligation? Sometimes you need to be careful with absolutes.

        1. Claus2

          I suspect Brad will craft a sternly worded letter to the woman. Because in his world every woman is just like June Cleaver.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          I actually seldom deal in absolutes. That’s one of the reasons I’m uncomfortable with ideologues — there are almost always exceptions. I say “almost” always because to say “always” would, of course, be an absolute.

          My statement was meant to be concerned with the normal course of things, the kinds of circumstances in which men have hit women since time immemorial. The word “ever” was meant to dismiss any protests that this happened 44 years ago, and also to dismiss the kinds of excuses that men who have lowered themselves to the level of brute beasts offer for hitting a woman: “She made me mad, so I hit her.”

          But let’s talk wild, unlikely scenarios. Let’s suppose I had to strike a woman to defend someone else. (I’m not sure I COULD strike a woman in self-defense. Maybe I could, but I’m tempted to think I’d cover my head and hope she stopped.)

          I’d be at a real disadvantage. I’m not experienced at violence, but what little I know of it is that to win a fight, a deadly fight, you have to have a certain lack of inhibition in your attack.

          With a woman there would tend to be some hesitation.

          This is one reason I’m one of those mossbacks who doesn’t believe in men competing with women in contact sports.

          I’ll tell you a story from more than 30 years ago. Back in the 80s, I used to work out at the local Y in Jackson, TN. Sometimes after my workout I’d join a pickup game of basketball. Once, I found myself in a coed game, and was guarding this young woman I knew slightly. She was very attractive, which made me a little awkward getting so close to her. But I tried to shake it off, and play like she was a guy, and I decided to see if I could take the ball from her as she paused in front of me, dribbling and looking for a way around me.

          I lunged in and took a swipe at the ball with my open hand, missed it and caught the inside of her thigh, quite high up. I was about to apologize when she pointed with her free hand and cried out in a shocked tone, “LOOK at what you did!” She had that kind of fair skin that briefly left red marks where she was touched, and there was my pink handprint on her naked thigh….

          I straightened up, appalled, and started stammering about how I hadn’t meant to…

          And she drove around me and scored with a layup.

          She had read me like a book…

          1. Claus2

            “But let’s talk wild, unlikely scenarios. Let’s suppose I had to strike a woman to defend someone else. (I’m not sure I COULD strike a woman in self-defense. Maybe I could, but I’m tempted to think I’d cover my head and hope she stopped.)”

            Hypothetical Situation: You take a grandchild to the zoo. Out of nowhere a mentally deranged woman starts slapping and kicking your grandchild. What do you do? Give her the evil eye or drop her like a bad habit? If it were me, once she came to she’d be spending the next several minutes crawling around trying to pick up teeth. And no I wouldn’t feel bad about it. For the record, I’ve never been in the situation where I’ve had to hit a woman, but that still doesn’t mean I wouldn’t under the right circumstances.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Of course, a man’s first instinct would be to use his superior upper-body strength to restrain the woman — grab her arms and pin them down. Only if that proved impossible — because she’s unusually strong, or because she’s in a mental state that magnifies her strength, or maybe she’s armed somehow — would it be necessary to consider other options.

            2. Barry

              I doubt greatly I would hit her. I’d attempt to restrain her enough to stop the violent action and/or move out of the way as quickly as possible.

              I have no interest in hurting someone that is already suffering, and if I did I would definitely feel bad about it.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author


                This is… not really the same thing, but it came to mind when I was telling that anecdote about leaving my handprint on that young woman’s inner thigh while playing basketball.

                I’ve mentioned that I was on the wrestling team in high school. That was in the 11th and 12th grades. My first experiences with wrestling, though, were in P.E. in the 9th grade, the one year I attended Bennettsville High School while my Dad was in Vietnam.

                It was a small school, and for whatever reason, at one point they mixed in the Special Education kids with my P.E. class. Since some of those guys were kind of small — and I was either the smallest or next-to-smallest guy in my class — I would sometimes be matched with one of them in wrestling.

                I did my best not to show it, but that made me really uncomfortable. These guys were mentally handicapped, and not terribly athletic, and it just seemed really UNFAIR to do something so like fighting against someone who, as I might have put it at the time, “wasn’t quite right.”

                I felt guilty doing it. And I’ll confess I also felt a little bit afraid… would one of them, in the heat of a match, get upset and lose control? And what if I had to hurt him to stop him? Then I’d REALLY feel bad….

                So the situation sort of creeped me out, and I felt bad about THAT, because I felt it was wrong to be creeped out by people who were different from me. I did my best not to show it, and I think I succeeded. I just wished I hadn’t been put in that position…

      2. Claus2

        Let’s hear the whole story. There are a lot of evil women out there who are nothing more than mean vicious women. Has he hit a woman since 1973? Murders and rapists sentenced in 1973 have been out on parole since then.

      3. Doug Ross

        No I just asked whether redemption and repentance are possible. Surely , Brad, your Catholic background would suggest all people can be redeemed.

        And I am not saying domestic violence is equivalent to the corruption in Richland County.. I’d just like to see someone like James Smith call out the local politicians and his own Senate brothers with the same immediacy. But there’s a reason he won’t. He’s a politician running for office… Every decision is based on that.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “But there’s a reason he won’t. He’s a politician running for office… Every decision is based on that.”

          What you said there is negated by the fact that he commented on Parnell — the well-positioned candidate of his own party.

          But let’s unwrap that observation in a broader way. Don’t we EXPECT “a politician running for office” to make decisions based on caring what the voters think about his words and actions?

          How many of us really want somebody who says, “Screw y’all; I don’t care WHAT you think?”

          Yeah, I like a candidate who will take a position he believes in strongly whether it is popular or not.

          If I were running for governor, I don’t think the misbehavior of a local solicitor would be particularly high on my list of things to think about and talk about. You’d have to give me a really good reason to formulate and share my views on that subject, when I’m running a campaign that’s about health care, education and economic development.

          I know that’s hard for you to identify with, since to you there is no greater issue than sleazy politicians misspending your money — proof positive that the whole system is rotten.

          But try to imagine if you’re someone to whom that is not the most interesting thing out there to care about.

          You ask me, I’ll say “Sure, we need a better solicitor.” Now, whether the guy running against him would BE a better solicitor, I don’t know — since I don’t vote in that district, I haven’t studied him.

          But I would agree with you that Johnson’s behavior has been unacceptable. I just don’t know if it’s something I’d want to spend breath and political capital on if I were busy running for governor…

          1. Doug Ross

            If Smith wants my vote he has to do or say something that h goes beyond generic politician speak. It’s been Sheheen 3.0 so far. Nothing unique, nothing interesting, nothing that goes beyond the standard Democrat playbook. Run a good race and then lose by 5-8 points.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Maybe one of these days I’ll understand what it is you expect of people in public life. They can’t win with you.

              It’s not so much that there’s anything WRONG with James. He’s done nothing to OFFEND you. Therefore that’s his problem — too bland, too safe.

              It seems like in order to please Doug, he’s got to do something edgy that will alienate several thousand other people.

              You talk about Democrats… You realize, don’t you, that to win as a Dem in SC, you’ve got to get every single vote of every single person who will under normal circumstances even CONSIDER voting for a Democrat? And then, you’re still way short — you still have to win over a healthy number of people who ordinarily would NOT consider voting for a Democrat.

              You’ve got to be one very winning, personable, non-alienating character. It’s a highwire act.

              And if you can’t manage that, or aren’t willing to, you might as well not run…

              1. bud

                Doug has a point. So far Smith is extraordinarily dull. One reason Jones won in AL was that his prosecution of the 60s murders of the young black girls resonated with black voters. Smith just doesn’t show much reason to get excited.

              2. Richard

                I see Smith and Wilson have their warrior pictures up in their television ads. Neither military lawyer likely carried a rifle other than for pictures.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  You just don’t have a clue, do you?

                  Just in case anyone else out there is this clueless…

                  James Smith WAS a lawyer in the Guard. Then 9/11 came, and he wanted to fight. So he requested a transfer to the infantry. He was told he couldn’t do that. But he kept asking.

                  Eventually, someone said sure, you can do that — if you resign your commission and start over as a grunt in basic training. So he did, humping it over obstacle courses with the 18-year-olds at the age of 37. Eventually, they made him an officer again, and he went to Afghanistan with his M-4, leading combat troops and fighting the Taliban.

                  So in other words, what you THINK is the situation is precisely the opposite of the truth…

                2. Mark Stewart

                  One could compare Wilson’s military service to Graham’s – but neither ought to be compared to Smith’s. That’s just the way it is. They put on the uniform, he wore his.

                  James Smith seems like a measured, reasonable guy who is willing to do what he believes is right, regardless of the hurdles and the challenges. That seems like the most we could ever hope for in a politician: Principled, committed, and thoughtful have never seemed like bad juju to me.

              3. Doug Ross

                I expect someone who wants to be a leader to demonstrate that quality. Not another boilerplate candidate who spouts platitudes about schools and working hard. Empty rhetoric won’t fix this state.. he has a limited track record to run on and an automatic deficit at the ballot box because of his party. He needs to be different than all the Stepford candidates who preceded him. Hodges won because of the lottery. Maybe Smith should jump on the new legalized sports betting ruling that came out of the supreme Court.

                1. bud

                  I’d go with medicinal marijuana. That’s an issue many libertarians and even Republicans could embrace. Heck why stop there. Support full blown pot legalization. He really has no hope with this bland approach. Don’t get me wrong I like the guy. But really folks if you can’t see how little chance he has with his current approach the you haven’t been paying attention.

          2. Barry

            Can you imagine James Smith or any candidate talking about a local solicitor? 95% of the people listening wouldn’t care – and don’t know who the local solicitor is anyway.

            none of the candidates have spoken about the issue to any real degree.

            Considering the governor would be the one that actually suspends someone like Johnson from office should he be indicted, it’s wise to remain silent.

            1. Doug Ross

              Where does James Smith live? Doesn’t he live in Richland.County? I would think he would have some interest and, shockingly, influence in the county if he was the leader he claims to be. But he can’t talk about local politicians without alienating the black voters he desperately needs.. Even though, like Sheheen, he doesn’t resonate with them in the first place. If he wants some crossover votes, maybe he should try acting like a non partisan Democrat.

              1. Mark Stewart

                Doug, it’s way easier for us to pop off on the ill we see among the local pols. But when one is in office, one has to be more circumspect about casting public aspersions on other politicians simply in light of partially baked news stories.

                Personally, it seems within the realm of possibility that Johnson could be indicted for what we have read about. But I don’t hold it against any politician for holding fire at this point. That’s as it should be. But I would hope that they do speak at the ballot box.

                1. Doug Ross

                  There is nothing that would suggest Johnson should remain in office. Read the facts about the expenses he charged to his office. He should have been forced to resign months ago

                  As I said, if Smith lives in Richland County he should use his position as an elected representative in the county to address it. But he won’t. .

                2. Barry

                  Correct Mark. With S
                  Ed investigating, the last thing anyone needs is a politician talking about the issue.

                  Smith, and all the candidates are doing the right thing by not talking about it regardless of what someone says about it. They won’t help at this point.

              2. Barry

                Regardless of where he lives, he isnt running for governor of Richland County.

                He’s campaigning all over the state. Talking about the local solicitor in Richland only reinforces the fact that he lives in Columbia to the rest of the state.

                He needs to ignore it.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Nobody knows who he is anyway. I bet his name recognition is under 10% state wide. Most of his votes are going to come from people who only see the D next to his name.

                  Why does it take SLED months to investigate what a third year accounting student could figure out in three days? Expenses need receipts.. Receipts need a justification. Johnson paid his brother to fly to Columbia to DJ an event. That one transaction alone was enough to justify forcing him to resign.

                  I hope you use the same “wait until the investigation is over” mantra when it comes to Trump and Mueller.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    If it’s all so simple, what statute would you say was violated? In what way did he break the law, exceeding the discretion that he has as an elected official — answering only to the voters — over his budget?

                    Maybe he DID violate a law — but no one has demonstrated that yet.

                    I think that’s what people say when they say they’re waiting to see what the investigation turns up.

                    Not everything that his bad, or stupid, or outrageous is illegal. There is no law that says, “Anyone who offends Doug’s common sense shall be remanded immediately to prison.” A quick look around you in this world in which we live should convince you of that…

                  2. Brad Warthen Post author

                    And Doug, while you’re focusing on that, I’m noticing something larger that’s pretty much unnoticed…

                    The way to deal with Johnson, of course — as I keep pointing out — is to elect someone to replace him. It’s not a bit clear to me at this point that that’s going to happen, and I can understand your frustration at that.

                    But meanwhile… We have Todd Atwater running against Alan Wilson in the GOP primary for AG. When Todd first started to run, it looked like the nomination might fall into his lap. Pascoe’s investigation seemed to be marching inexorably toward Wilson, with the special prosecutor heavily telegraphing that that was in intended destination.

                    But then Pascoe stumbled. He let Richard Quinn off completely, and let Rick plead to something about as serious as a parking ticket. And where’s the John Courson trial that was supposed to have happened back in March?

                    The probe may yet revive, but now it seems dead in the water. And I’m not hearing a word about Atwater’s candidacy.

                    THAT’s weird…

                2. Doug Ross

                  So if he wasn’t running for governor, as a public official in Richland County, he should comment? Just trying to figure out when we could expect him to represent his constituents.

                3. Barry

                  No. He should NOT comment as I have stated. An investigation is occurring.

                  A politician commenting is not going to be helpful.

            2. Claus2

              I know who he his now that his wasteful spending has been made public. Why he hasn’t been removed from office is beyond me. He’s obviously not doing his job, how many times over the past four years has he actually tried a case? But it won’t surprise me if Richland County voters re-elect him, because that’s just how things are done in South Carolina.

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