Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Honor of Punxsutawney Phil: This Is State Business?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Honor of Punxsutawney Phil: This Is State Business?

Article excerpt

If a Pennsylvania state representative has a groundhog's back, does that mean we'll have seven more months of budget impasse?

State Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California, made time last week to write a letter to Stephanie Abrams of The Weather Channel demanding a public apology for disrespecting Punxsutawney Phil. Seriously. Then he - Mr. Daley, not the marmot - sent out a press release to let us know.

"I was offended by your on-air comments describing the Groundhog as a 'rodent,' " Mr. Daley wrote Ms. Abrams, before sharing that letter with media. "Your negativity was appalling and demonstrated your ignorance toward this popular tradition, the people of Pennsylvania, and the loyal viewers of the Weather Channel."

Ignorance? What zoologist would throw a flag on Ms. Abrams for saying simply, "You know it's just a rodent"?

It is a rodent, but Mr. Daley, 65, and the rep with the most seniority in Western Pennsylvania, flipped out the moment he heard the dismissive tone.

I reached him between constituent meetings at his district office Thursday afternoon. He recalled lying in bed the morning of Groundhog Day, watching The Weather Channel. He's a big fan - "I'm nuts about the weather; I have like 17 apps" - and he says Ms. Abrams is "usually pretty cool."

And then it happened. Ms. Abrams dismissively called Phil "a rodent," said it "six or seven times," and "I'm thinking that's b.s." (Mr. Daley didn't abbreviate b.s. He was rolling.)

"If she was kicking The Terrible Towel across the stage, I'd be just as pissed off."

Mr. Daley, retiring at the end of this term after 34 years in Harrisburg, said he may offer a resolution condemning The Weather Channel, perhaps when the House resumes not passing a budget tomorrow.

So how much muck could a state rep chuck if a woodchuck was dissed good? Here's some of what Mr. Daley has said so far:

"Pennsylvania's seven-month budget impasse, its underfunded public schools and even its unique weather - it can be under a flood and drought watch simultaneously - are fair game for derision. However, disparaging Punxsutawney Phil - a legendary weather prognosticator for 130 years - on Groundhog Day is unacceptable and uncouth. …

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