In the way-new media world, online news sites come and go.
But few live as brief a life as the Arizona Daily Herald
, which barely posted a story on Facebook before it vanished from the web earlier this week.
was, purportedly, the work of one Jim Falken, who does not seem to exist except on the internet.
But photos of Falken bear a remarkable resemblance to Timothy Desjarlais, who works as Pima County Supervisor Ally’s press/communications assistant. DesJarlais, who has worked on campaigns for Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, is also a candidate for the Marana School Board.
DesJarlais did not return phone calls from the Weekly
asking if he was masquerading as a reporter under a false name while working as the communications staffer in Miller’s District 1 office.
But when confronted by Explorer Newspaper
reporter Logan Burtch-Buus at an Oro Valley meeting earlier today, DesJarlais refused to comment and then fled into a bathroom.
Miller did not return a phone call seeking comment on the entire bizarre affair.
Pima County supervisors started getting emails from Jim Falken last week. Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez got the following email:
I am emailing you today to ask you to add me on Supervisor Ramon Valadez’s press advisory/release emailing list so that I can receive all your most recent updates and such. I am the editor of newly founded paper and would like to stay informed with the workings of your office.
Editor of the Arizona Daily Herald
Around the same time, some candidates for office started getting emails requesting comment on Miller’s recently released plan to improve the roads. Republican John Winchester, who is seeking to challenge Miller in this year’s GOP primary, got the following email:
Hi Mr. Winchester,
Over this weekend, Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller has released a proposed plan she says will fix Pima County's roads. The details of her plan include extending the RTA, dedicating 50% of its revenue to road repair instead of road creation, halting the issuance of 1997 road bonds, and allocating all HURF monies to go towards road repairs. Supervisor Miller says that none of the RTA's funds are going towards road/pavement repair. The full plan has been attached to this email in a PDF format.
We are aware you are challenging Supervisor Ally Miller in the District 1 Primary and we would like to get a statement from you regarding Supervisor Miller's plan. Do you agree with her about road conditions being a key issue in the 2016 elections? And if so, do you agree with Supervisor Miller's solution or do you have your own solution to fix Pima County roads, and if so, what would that be?
We eagerly await your reply.
Jim Falken | Senior Reporter/Chief Editor
Arizona Daily Herald
As recipients of the emails began digging into who Jim Falken was, they ran into a rich fantasy world that often involved DesJarlais. For example:
• DesJarlais had proclaimed himself the “president of the Democratic Republic of Dido Place,” which is the street where he lives with his parents. He has an elaborate campaign site for his presidential campaign and cites, among his accomplishments, that “despite having no firsthand political experience, he was able to get elected and become one of Dido Place’s greatest presidents since George Dido.”
• Jim Falken’s Facebook page has featured a photo of someone who looks a lot like DesJarlais as the bio pic.
• Falken’s Facebook page has also featured a photo of Democratic Republic of Dido Place President DesJarlais sitting at his desk and signing a “bill allowing criminal suffrage,” as well as a link to a 2014 story reporting that DesJarlais had been abducted and Jim Falken has taken power in the Democratic Republic of Dido Place. Falken’s Facebook page subsequently noted a Thanksgiving Day address delivered by Jim Falken, who continues to bear an uncanny resemblance to DesJarlais.
• A "Jim Falken for Governor" website bio notes that Falken “was born to a typical middle class family in Tucson, Arizona, and was raised by throughtful and caring parents who raised him on the values of diligence, hard work and doing what is right. … His dream was to become a professional basketball player but a knee injury ended his chances of playing for the Arizona Wildcats. Falken then served as an adjunct history professor at Pima Community College for four years before getting involved in politics.”
As rumors began swirling that Jim Falken was actually Timothy DesJarlais, traces of Falken and the Arizona Daily Herald
began vanishing from the internet earlier this week.
It remains unclear whether Miller, who is seeking a second term this year, was aware that her spokesperson and social-media expert may have been posing as a reporter who was claiming to be covering her race and interacting with her opponent.
But Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, who has been feuding with Miller since she took office in 2013, said that he believed that Miller “absolutely” knew about “this guy’s mischievous activities.”
“It does not surprise me because she is unethical and would do anything to damage the brand of Pima County and then later deny it,” Carroll said. “I just have to say, I’ve never seen anything more crazy than her fake news service by any political activist, let alone an elected official, in all the years I’ve been in office in Southern Arizona.”