Capitol Alert: New York Times regurgitates Brown's old Medfly blowup

03/18/2014 12:28 PM

03/18/2014 12:40 PM

The New York Times this week is regurgitating something that occurred more than three decades ago in California — something that Gov. Jerry Brown would like to forget.

The newspaper, as part of a series called "Retro Report" that's aimed at bringing readers up to date on old issues, delved into an infestation of Mediterranean fruit flies that threatened California's tree fruit industry in 1981 and 1982.

The Retro Report on the Medlfy includes both a written account and a video that uses much old footage, including clips of a much-younger Brown who was then winding up his first gubernatorial stint and running for the U.S. Senate.

It delves into how Brown at first refused to order pesticide spraying for environmental and health reasons, then caved in to pressure from the federal government — headed by President Ronald Reagan, a former California governor — and consented to aerial spraying.

The retrospective updates the Medfly story by noting that California has seen infestations in the decades since, and probably will in the future. It also notes that Brown lost his bid for the Senate in which his erratic handling of the Medfly crisis was a negative factor.

But the Times article omits another facet of the crisis — a virtual rebellion by the Legislature against Brown on the issue. And, unfortunately, it does not include the most memorable words to emerge from the Medfly crisis.

"I'm getting a bit bugged by this bug," Brown said as the controversy over his initial refusal to spray erupted. "It's got a lot of politicians panicked or foaming at the mouth."

The Medfly issue so consumed the Capitol at the time that a worker on the building's restoration, then underway, fashioned a tiny plaster fly that was attached to the ceiling of one of the building's museum rooms.

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