LETTER: Arora’s Ham-handed 2018 Video Casts a Shadow in 2020

Letter to the editor submitted by Ridgley Knapp, Greenwich

As we move into the New Year – 2020, no small year for American politics – around about a third of Greenwich will face an important decision: who to fill the seat of First Selectman Fred Camillo in the state legislature? Cheryl Moss, the Democratic candidate, or Harry Arora, the Republican?

Most know Arora from his 2018 campaign against U.S. Congressman Jim Himes – a campaign that garnered him 38.8% of the vote district-wide but a not unimpressive 46% in House District 151, the seat for which he is now competing. I first wrote out the following series of thoughts during that election cycle, but did not feel a pressing need to send them in, as Congressman Himes’ reelection prospects were high. Now, given the historically low turnout in special elections, I feel that need.

In 2018, Harry Arora’s team put out a sophomoric video in which – presumably – one of the campaign’s interns portrayed “Connecticut’s 4th District” discussing its gripes with another intern playing a therapist. While I’m all for positive representations of therapy in media and campaigns, this (since deleted) video angered me. Though I don’t remember it in its entirety, I vividly recall its ending with a line about the economy ham-handedly rolled into a joke about, shall we say, a lack of capability to perform.

In short, the video reminded me of too many instances in media where those who make use of therapy – men in particular – are portrayed as weak and emasculated. It is exactly this sort of portrayal in society that leads so many individuals who may benefit from therapy to forgo it for fear of seeming emasculation or weakness.

Though the video has been removed, I since have found no evidence of an apology nor an official retraction from the Arora campaign, and his revamped website does not mention mental health (or any form of healthcare) in its “Issues” tab.

Though I am a Democrat, I feel the need to indicate this is not just another political bashing for the sake of bashing. I think Arora’s environmental stance is promising for a mainstream Republican candidate, and I have heard his transportation stances from legislators on both sides of the aisle. But I also strongly believe that the mindset towards mental health that that video suggests should be disqualifying for – or should at least cast a heavy shadow over the future of – a prospective policymaker and civil servant.

Ridgley Knapp

NOTE: Deadline for letters to the editor for the Jan 21 special election for State Rep District 151 is Jan 14, 2020 at 5pm.