Wednesday, March 15, 2023

News Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams reports that Congressman Andy Ogles misused money raised as a memorial for stillborn babies.

Andy Ogles
by Rod Williams, March 15, 2023- News Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams has reported that Congressman Andy Ogles misused money raised as a memorial for still born babies. Ogles himself was father to a stillborn son, Lincoln. 

According to Williams, Ogles used photo of a stillborn child in 2014 for a GoFundMe campaign, he promised to build a place for burial of babies with benches surrounded by flowers for families, and a life-size statue of Jesus. It never happened and he kept the money, alleges Williams. I cannot find a video of the report, but you can read the transcript at this link.

According to the Phil Williams report, Ogles would not respond to the allegation. The story has been picked up by The Tennessean and other Tennessee news outlets and the national press including The New Republic, New York Post and others. 

Congressman Ogles did issue a press release regarding the matter which was reported in The Tennessee Star. Here is the text of the press release:

In Lincoln’s memory, my family and I started a GoFundMe page to help support other families struggling with grief. Monica and I were the largest donor to the GoFundMe, followed by my immediate family and friends. What we raised wasn’t enough for our original goal of a more significant memorial, so the purpose evolved from a memorial to direct financial support for families covering the cost of funeral expenses and other needs for their children as opportunities to help arose. It’s been our honor to support families and causes in the name of Lincoln Ogles. What started as a small GoFundMe fueled our family into continued service through out our community for several years.

Andy Miller, one of the GoFundMe campaign's primary donors, stated: ‘When Andy began his mission to grow financial support for a memorial for grieving families, I was honored to be able to step up and provide $2,500 for the cause. Andy has used that money and the other donations received to assist families in the community and honor Lincoln’s life. It has been a cause that I have seen support those in some of their darkest hours, and I am proud of my friend’s work to help families in our community.’

I knew politics could be ruthless, but I never expected it to sink to such disgusting lows as to have a reporter calling around to my close friends asking about the death and burial site of our beloved son, Lincoln, and question our giving in his honor. As a parent who has lost a child, my wife and I have lived with this unimaginable grief daily. It’s like living two lives, the one while Lincoln blessed us on the Earth and the life we’ve lived every day after in honor of his memory. It’s a grief that never goes away, and we’ve all just learned to live with the heavy weight of loss.

The smear campaign and muckraking against me is one thing, but questions about my son have crossed a line, and I will not tolerate it. Exploiting the death of any child in an attempt to gain some sort of journalistic fame is vile. These disgusting smears are why people do not want to step up and serve in politics, and it has to stop.

I am blessed to be Lincoln’s father and to honor his memory by continuing to pour back into our community, and I miss him dearly every day.”

To me, Andy's explanation sounds sincere and believable. I am almost persuaded that he started with the best of intentions and when the money was insufficient to realize his goal, he probably did abandon his original plan and probably did intend to use the money as he says he did. But maybe he did not keep records of how the money was spent and maybe some of it never got spend for the purpose he intended. I don't know.

I would be more inclined to totally accept Ogles explanation if he had initially responded to Williams rather than avoiding him.  That looks bad.  Phil Williams is a fair-minded reporter and a good journalist having broken many stories of misconduct and government waste and abuse. Phil Williams is not a hack with an agenda. 

Also, if this was the first claim of misconduct by Ogles, I would be more inclined to give Andy Ogles the benefit of the doubt, but this is not the first case. Ogles has been caught misrepresenting his credentials, his major in college, his employment resume and other questionable things. Some of this can be found here, here, and here

Andy Ogles was not my first choice for the Republican nominee for the 5th Congressional seat, but I supported him when he got the nomination. Actually, I like Ogles.  I suspect this is not the last we will hear of this issue.  Also, when a pattern of misstatements and questionable actions emerges, the press keeps digging for more.  I hope that is all there is but I am staying turned waiting for the next shoe to drop.

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