The first time most people heard the name Ian Murphy was after the editor of the satirical Buffalo-based website the Beast passed himself off as conservative billionaire activist David Koch and talked to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker for twenty minutes on the phone in the midst of union unrest there. But if Murphy has his druthers, you’ll be hearing his name a lot more often after he’s elected to Congress on May 24. Murphy was recently nominated by the Green Party in the special election for Western New York’s 26th district seat, which was vacated by disgraced former congressman Chris Lee in February. As if there was any doubt, Murphy’s kickoff campaign video showed that he’s not your typical candidate.
We spoke to Murphy about whether he’s serious, why Mayor Bloomberg was right about Buffalo, and much more.
How did this all come about? Did the Green Party approach you, or did you approach the Green Party?
I approached them. I wanted to run before the whole Walker-Koch story broke, but there’s really no way of collecting 3,500 signatures.
So that’s why you sought the Green Party nomination?
That, and I believe in 98 percent of what they do.
What was your first thought upon hearing that Chris Lee had been caught trolling for ass on Craigslist?
Well, you know, just that these family-value types are nothing if not hypocritical. This has been a rule proven over and over again, from Larry Craig until now. It’s almost inevitable at this point. But my second thought, which you didn’t ask, was that I should run for his seat because I happen to live in his district.
On your website, you’ve written sincerely about your support for high-speed rail. You’ve also Photoshopped your face onto the naked, flexing torso of former congressman Chris Lee. You have a section outlining your philosophy on job creation, and you have one espousing your stance on puppies (pro). Should people take this as a serious run, or as a form of political satire?
Oh, it’s very serious. It’s the most serious thing they’ve ever witnessed. This is far more serious a campaign than any of my opponents are running.
Why is that?
Because I’m actually talking about real things, real issues. Some jokes mixed in, sure. Go to [Republican nominee] Jane Corwin’s website and try to figure out what the fuck she believes in. She believes in nothing.
Your campaign website is located at murphycanhascongress.com. If you had to guess, what percentage of the people in your district do you think understand the reference to the “I Can Has Cheezburger” meme?
I would say half of the eligible voters who usually do not vote because they’re young. That’s obviously who we’re targeting. But we also bought ianmurphyforcongress.com, which actually points to that “canhas” domain name.
What is the nicest thing you are capable of saying honestly about Carl Paladino?
Uh … [sighs] … How you doin’, Carl? See ya later!
How would you grade the Obama presidency so far?
Grade? Oh, it’s so hard, because Bush just made anything look like the best thing in the world. I don’t know, I’d say a solid B. And I have a lot of problems with the Obama presidency, but if you’re going to call Bush an F … maybe a C, C+. It depends — Bush threw off the curve a little bit.
Mayor Bloomberg recently apologized for saying that Buffalo is full of empty space and implying that it was not a very enticing place to live. Apology accepted?
No, he shouldn’t apologize for that. Buffalo fucking sucks. And everyone here knows it. There’s a lot of good things about Buffalo, but it is full of empty space, it’s full of urban decay, everyone’s leaving, and instead of putting on a cheery, happy face and denying it, let’s admit it to ourselves and make it better, yeah?
How do you think saying “Buffalo sucks” is going to go over with people who live in Buffalo?
Well, Buffalo’s not in my district, so Buffalo can kiss my ass.
Oh, I thought you had some northern suburbs of Buffalo in there.
Ah, we do, we do. I mean, I love Buffalo. I grew up here, and you better write that there’s a lot of good things about it because there is. But there are a lot of problems. There are a lot of empty buildings, there is a lot of empty space, and there are not a lot of economic opportunities. That’s one of the reasons I am running, is to bring that to the region. I don’t think that’s something to apologize for. I mean, did he apologize for calling Irish people drunks yet? Did he do that?
He kind of gave a half apology.
I was about three fifths into my bottle of scotch when I read that, and I was eating my potatoes, and, uh … I was mightily upset.
So you didn’t have a problem with that.
No, I think it was just a joke that didn’t go over, and I think people are just way too thin-skinned about everything.
There was a great moment in your recent interview with Capital Tonight where you were asked what you thought of one of your opponents, and you replied, simply, “I don’t know.” And it kind of threw the host off because it was basically the first time a candidate has just admitted that they didn’t have any opinion on something.
Yeah, I didn’t know a lot about it at the time, and you’re supposed to have these rehearsed talking points ready to go, and that was obviously a pretty bad interview on my part [laughs]. But yeah, if I don’t know something, that’s what I’m going to say. I’d rather do that than lie or just stick to some sort of script I’m reading like some normal politician.
I found a profile on an atheist website where you describe yourself as a “militant” atheist. Is that your profile?
Oh sure, yeah. I mean, that’s more satire than anything because I don’t actually know what that phrase means, militant atheist. Yeah, I don’t like silly religious beliefs. That’s on my website; that’s one of my issues, secular values. I’m not going to pander to peoples’ religion. I never will, and it has no place in government.
Why are there so few atheists in Congress (one, to be exact)?
Hmmm, I guess we’re a religious society, right? And even people who are atheists are afraid to come out of the closet about it. It’s a movement for the future, it’s coming.
Who will America elect first: an atheist president, a gay president, or will the sun just die out first?
I think we should just go for both, all in one shot. Atheist gay president. A gaytheist president. The first gaytheist president!
Anything else you want to add?
I’m gonna dominate in the election. No, just a special message to the younger voters of the 26th who don’t ever vote: I never voted in my life, and I’m voting for Murphy, so they should, too.