Why Huppenthal’s Apology is Worthless


In an nutshell, the problem:  To accept Huppenthal’s apology for his disgusting online comments would be to assume he operates under the same moral code as most of us.

But he doesn’t. His sense of right and wrong is twisted. That’s why he engaged in this behavior — blog trolling — in the first place. Consider the results of research on the personality traits of blog trolls, as summarized by Heather Digby Parton:

The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called “Dark Tetrad”: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.

huppenthal-Caricature-thought-bubbleEssentially, Huppenthal is purporting to be remorseful for behavior that signifies a willingness to deceive and manipulate and an inability to feel remorse. Believing Huppenthal is sorry would be like believing the guy you see driving your truck when he says he didn’t steal your truck.

Is Huppenthal some sort of rare exception, a blog troll who does not carry the personality traits that make up the Dark Tetrad? Hardly. A discussion of the existence of each of these traits in Huppenthal follow after the jump.

Narcissism (egotism and self-obsession):

Is Huppenthal narcissistic? Is a school bus yellow? Huppenthal is the embodiment of narcissism. Narcissism permeates his entire being. From his online comments, it’s clear that he obsessed about what was said about him, compulsively responding to every online mention of his name at countless websites. He created his own imaginary cheering section (Falcon9 and Thucydides), through which he spoke of himself glowingly in the third person.

Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive):

Huppenthal didn’t just use online pseudonyms. He went a step further, engaging in what’s known as sock puppetry. He spoke of himself in the third person, knowingly leaving the false impression that he was not the person to whom he referred. The intention of any sock puppeteer to deceive requires no eplanation.

And he’s been as deceitful in his public life as he was online.

Shortly after taking office, Huppenthal hired the Cambium Learning Group to audit the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program. The audit, which cost $110,000, resulted in findings that the MAS program was largely beneficial to students. But, as Blog for Arizona reported, before anyone else had a chance to read the report, Huppenthal called a hasty press conference and said the report substantiated his attacks on MAS.  When the actual audit report was released and it revealed Huppenthal’s deception for all, including the Arizona Republic, to see, Huppenthal resorted to further manipulation. To use his current terminology, he “renounced and repudiated” the report, claiming the auditors were played by the MAS team. In order to acheive his pre-ordained result, he totally ignored the findings of the auditors he himself had hired.

Just months ago, Huppenthal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, recorded a robo-call encouraging parents to move enroll their children in private schools. Huppenthal originally reported that the calls had gone to 15,000 households. That was not even remotely close to accurate. As this blog reported, a records request by ProgressNow Arizona revealed that the calls went to 48,000 households.

Psychopathy (lack of remorse and empathy):

If you characterize the poor as “lazy pigs,” you lack empathy. You can say that’s not what it’s in your heart, but here’s the problem: What you say from a script in front of a camera may not be what’s in your heart, but what you say online when you think you’re basking in your anonymity is precisely what is in your heart.

As for lack of remorse, let’s not forget that this whole incident was not the first time Huppenthal was caught engaging in deceptive practices online. In 2006, he was busted for whitewashing his Wikipedia page. But it’s what happened in connection with and in the aftermath of the whitewashing, as the BlueMeanie and I have described here and here, that tells you just how utterly lacking in remorse John Huppenthal is.

When he was busted for whitewashing his Wikipedia page and the page of his friend, Ken Bennet, and altering the page of a political foe, Slade Mead, Huppenthal explained in a response to the blogger who busted him how, get this, he was honest because he did not post anonymously:

Wikipedia has an option for posting anonymously. I chose not to do that. That’s the honest man’s trademark. He leaves his signature.

Then, after the page had been re-written, Huppenthal created a sock puppet account and attempted to re-whitewash the page, this time anonymously. Then, two years later, and when the blog reporting the incident had been defunct for a year, Huppenthal posted an anonymous comment (so much for a signature being the honest man’s trademark, huh?) in an attempt to discredit the blogger who had busted him in the first place.

With that episode in mind, fast forward to when Huppenthal was caught this time. His first reaction, on this blog, was utterly lacking in remorse. He dared me to air all his comments, indicating he was proud of them. Days later, he alleged it was I who had acted unethcially. The following week, he hung up the phone on Steve Lemons when asked about the comments. He then admitted to making the comments, but characterized them only as “edgy.” When a reporter at the Capitol Times called me for comment, he relayed to me that Huppenthal had expressed his belief that I exposed him out of revenge because his comments had been so devastating to the logic and analysis in my posts. Days later, Huppenthal had a conversation with Lisa Graham Keegan in which she believed he showed no remorse.

Conclusion: Three of the traits comprising the dark tetrad associated with blog trolls, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, are unmistakeably apparent from  John Huppenthal’s behavior.


Is Huppenthal a sadist? Does it matter? Whether Huppenthal is a sadist or just a bigoted, narcissistic, deceitful, manipulative psychopath, the upshot is the same: He needs to resign.

Expel Huppenthal.


  1. As much as I respect you Bob for unmasking Huppenthal, I’d be very careful about assuming the role of a psychologist or psychiatrist & diagnosing him from a distance. My late father was a psychiatrist, and he always resisted my efforts to have him psychoanalyze public figures whom I disliked (e.g., Nixon). He said that doing so would be unethical since you were doing it from a distance. We can dislike Huppenthal for his positions, but we should be careful about trying to put psychiatric diagnoses on him. The latter is unnecessary.

    • Obviously, your Father was a very professional and smart man. We don’t really need to psychoanalyze Hupenthal to realize he has problem. I am a blog troll myself, but I don’t think I am like Huperthal at all. I try to stay polite and I avoid being rude and I am certainly never nasty and name calling. I can be sarcastic, but I try and keep that to a minimum.

    • Brian, your comments are thought-provoking in several ways. Your father’s ethical stance is exactly what we expect from a professional and your personal context is moving. Your concern about lay people engaging in psychological/psychiatric diagnoses is well taken. But I see an important place for the discussion of a politician’s personality traits, as Bob has raised them and I don’t think he has approached an inappropriate area.

      I personally believe that most politicians are narcissists. It’s just what it takes for most people to take on that challenge. That goes for politicians that I respect, as well as those that I don’t. But when a public official’s narcissism is destructive, e.g. Bill Clinton, I think we are within our rights to say so. Same for whatever character flaws Huppenthal has shown. I’m confident that he has earned our scrutiny.

    • Brian, I think if you’re a public official and you behave in the manner Huppenthal did, members of the public are entitled to put forth their theories about you. Nobody is going to medicate or treat Huppenthal based on my “diagnosis.” This is a poltical question, not a legal or medical one. If we believe merely that there is a risk he carries personality traits that render him unfit for public office, it’s okay to discuss. The idea here is not to diagnose to a medical certainty or a legal certainty. Let’s not get tied up in abstract principles of medical ethics when there is no need to do so.

  2. Here’s a fun fact to put in the Machiavellian category. In its audit report, Cambium said that the MAS classroom visitation schedule was not released to TUSD personnel. Yet, Huppenthal said in an interview that Cambium allowed one of the creators of MAS “to control the audit structure,” including which classes were visited and when. He (via Horne) made the same claim to the 9th Circuit, citing only to his interview. That’s how far he will go to discredit the Cambium audit.

  3. How can anyone accept Huppenthal’s apology as sincere? You judge a man’s character by what he does when no one is looking. Posting anonomously is pretty close to that, and he said what he meant when he thought no one knew who he was.

    On a different note, despite AZ Blue Meanie identifying me as a troll, I don’t feel like “a bigoted, narcissistic, deceitful, manipulative psychopath”. My dogs like me, so that has to count for something wouldn’t you think?

    • There’s a reason he doesn’t go by AZ BlueNicey, you know.

      As an owner of 5 dogs, I’d say, yes, it does count. But help us out here. Which of the 5 descriptive terms do you feel don’t apply?

      • Actually, none of the five really apply to me. Although, I must admit that at time over the course of my career I have had to be somewhat manipulative to the mission accomplished. But that was always a last resort. Most of the people I have known over the thought of me as reliable, honest, articulate, and one of the “go to” guys when you wanted to get something done. However, being human, it is possible I am blind to my flaws.

  4. Actually anyone who votes for him is a masochist or a diehard Republican. I predict he will survive his primary, even though Michelle Malkin gave $160 to his opponent.

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