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About Utah: Mia Love's amnesia raises some concerns

Saratoga Springs Mayor and Congressional candidate Mia Love smiles after giving her press conference Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, about the cost of having Congressman Jim Matheson in office.
Saratoga Springs Mayor and Congressional candidate Mia Love smiles after giving her press conference Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, about the cost of having Congressman Jim Matheson in office.
Scott G Winterton, Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Congressional candidate Mia Love says she doesn't remember telling a Deseret News reporter that her birth in 1975 was her immigrant family's ticket to freedom.

Well I remember her telling it. I was that reporter.

It was December 2011 and I was into the first month of writing my "About Utah" column, a twice-a-week B1 column about interesting people and places in the state. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was coming up and I made an appointment to talk to Love in her office at Saratoga Springs, where she's the mayor. As Utah's first black female mayor, I thought it made a nice tie-in to King's dream of a time when "they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

This was long before Love threw her hat into the ring to challenge Jim Matheson for his congressional seat.

I distinctly remember asking Love about her family roots. She talked about her mother and father coming from Haiti to America with visas in the 1970s. She went on to explain that her birth in a Brooklyn hospital on Dec. 5, 1975, came just 26 days before an immigration law allowing her parents to remain in the country if they had a child in America would have expired.

"They would have had to go back to Haiti," said Mia that day. "My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family's ticket to America."

I have it in my transcribed notes from that interview in case anyone would like to review them.

Mia Love apparently doesn't want to. I called and emailed her repeatedly last week but to no avail. She never got back to me.

I wanted to ask her directly how it is that she can't remember that discussion.

And why, after the simple, straightforward conversation we had in her office not so very long ago, she is now so fuzzy on the details.

"I don't remember anything like that," she told Fox 13 News.

To various other media inquiring about the circumstances of her family's immigration, she has defensively answered, "So what?" "I'm not sure" "Maybe."

This all became an issue when Mother Jones, a national liberal magazine, published an article titled "GOP Rising Star Mia Love: Anchor baby?" An anchor baby is a term, usually used derisively, for a child born on U.S. soil who secures legal status for its parents.

Since Love endorses a tough stand on immigration and government handouts, the glee in the article that Love herself might represent a government handout was obvious.

Anyway, Mother Jones cited my 2011 column as its source.

The article referred to a "little-noticed interview."

Ouch. But OK, I can live with little-noticed.

What's harder to live with is Love's forgetfulness and evasiveness.

I fully expected her to simply verify what I'd printed, not necessarily to me, but to others who asked. Not because it was politically expedient, but because it was true.

Instead she responded with her oblique, evasive answers that left me scratching my head.

Then she went on the attack and blamed Matheson for giving the information to Mother Jones.

Matheson's response: "I did not plant that story. I had nothing to do with it."

So, a couple of huge problems here:

One, Mia Love is capable of blaming someone without evidence or substantiation.

Two, Mia Love is capable of giving elusive answers that dodge the truth.

I remember the January afternoon I spent in her office. Photographer Scott Winterton shot photos as we talked. I found Love to be very pleasant, very accommodating. I didn't delve into her political views, but instead asked her about Martin Luther King Jr. (she said he's her inspiration) and about her family. She talked about meeting her future husband, Jason, a Utahn, which got her out of her job as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines and eventually into the mayor's office at Saratoga Springs. She talked about her three children. The last one she named Peyton, after Peyton Manning. She said she's a huge Colts fan.

I know all this because I have it in my memory, and my notes.

Alongside this one about something she said her parents told her: "They said we had you on purpose; you were our ticket to the free world."

Twenty months later, she suddenly has amnesia and won't return my calls.

I have a bad feeling about this.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday.