Say anything -- The three faces of Stephanie
January 8, 2004
We all know that politicians sometimes play fast and loose with the facts, but few are as easy to catch as the consummate storyteller Stephanie Hightower.
President Harry Truman once remarked that Richard Nixon “didn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.” Hightower’s problem seems to be that she forgets the stories that she tells different media sources on the record. Hightower is on the record with at least three versions of the day a 14-year-old boy threw a rock at her car.
Recall on December 3 that Hightower told the Columbus Dispatch – after at least two dozen people showed up at the Columbus School Board meeting to complain about her handling of the “rock throwing” incident – that “. . . she was rattled because the rock had thudded loudly against the car window, just inches from her head.”
The Dispatch quotes Hightower as saying, “The force was such, I just knew my head was busted open.” This version of the story elicits sympathy for School Board President Hightower and helps mitigate against her admissions that she “cussed at him and tried to lunge at him [the boy],” according to the Dispatch.
Two eyewitnesses to the event who work at the YMCA, where Hightower confronted the youth, claim she called the kid “a motherfucker.” Earlier, in a November 26 interview on WVKO radio, Hightower did not specifically admit to cursing, but instead used the phrase “strongly reprimanded” to describe her language.
In an even earlier version of the story appearing in the November 13 Columbus Alive, Hightower offered this: “. . . I went into the Y and asked the directors if someone fitting that description had recently gone in. They identified that he had and knew exactly who I was talking about. . . . That was pretty much it.” The two eyewitnesses supply a little more factual detail. Both assert that Hightower burst into the Y and loudly demanded to know “Where’s that nigger at?”
Hightower explained away her outrageous behavior in her WVKO interview, by claiming the rock had nearly hit her child. Hightower said, “My 12-year-old baby was where the force of the rock hit the passenger side.” In this version, there’s no mention of the rock thudding inches above her head, rattling her window, or that she was in any way at risk. Rather, in a heart-warming tale, she told listeners, “My motherly instincts took over after I made sure my child was O.K.”
In the initial Alive version, Hightower said she, her husband and son were driving home from dinner when someone threw a rock at their car striking the passenger side window. The story doesn’t mention any shock or awe on the part of Hightower. Rather, this is the calm version where she simply went into the YMCA Eldon Ward Branch and had a sit down chat with the young rock-thrower.
While the two eyewitnesses insist that Hightower used the term “nigger,” Hightower denied it in the WVKO interview with language similar to somebody on the witness stand. “It is not my recollection that the ‘n-word’ was used,” she told listeners. The two eyewitnesses claim that in Hightower’s official written version to the YMCA, she claimed that she and Donald (the kid) came into the Y together with little contention.
“Stephanie said they came in together. You know that’s a lie,” one eyewitness said. Another Y employee explained that she cussed him out and jerked on him (the boy). “Stephanie lied on that report, and I ain’t gonna lie for her,” the employee said.
Hightower maintains that she never laid hands on the boy. The Dispatch quotes George Hunter, the Y’s Program Director of the YMCA Youth and Adult Sports as saying that Hightower approached the youth in a “threatening manner” while “cursing.”
“We were just not going to let her hit him,” Hunter told the Dispatch.
Sources close to the boy claim that Hightower demanded that the child clean her house and do chores around her yard for a six month period or she would turn him in to the police. Hightower told WVKO that she had an “intervention strategy” where she would be spending some time with the boy.
As we go to press, sources close to the family say that they are still contemplating filing an assault charge against the School Board President. Of course, there could simply be a plausible explanation for how the rock, thrown from the grassy knoll on Woodland Avenue, simultaneously threatened both her son and Stephanie, hitting first one spot on one side of the car, then magical skipping over and rattling off the other side. This is known as the “magic rock” theory.
Bob Fitrakis was a candidate for Columbus School Board in 2003.
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