‘Worst moments’: Congress hopeful opens up in Rock Hill about 1973 attack on wife
Archie Parnell admits he has made mistakes.
But he said he believes every step – and misstep – in his life has led him to his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Congress.
Parnell spoke openly in Rock Hill Wednesday afternoon about what he said was one of his “worst moments.”
The Charleston Post and Courier first reported on divorce records from Parnell’s first marriage in May. His ex-wife, Kathleen Parnell, accused Parnell of beating her in October 1973.
Parnell, who admitted to the violence, called his actions “inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing,” when the allegations were revealed. Wednesday, he said the attack on his wife and another person was “fueled by alcohol and unchecked emotion.”
“For the next few days, I couldn’t believe what had happened,” Parnell said. “I found it difficult to look myself in the mirror. I’ve never struck anyone again. But how I felt about myself then and understood what I did was much more complicated.”
He said he took responsibility for his actions. He accepted a divorce from his then-wife and sought counseling.
He later married his second wife, Sarah, who he said he told about the incident.
“I did ask for forgiveness and I was forgiven,” Parnell said. “I took responsibility for my actions. I reached out and got counseling, and am a better man for it.”
Parnell said he is still ashamed of what he did that night 45 years ago. And he said that experience will inform the policies he supports, if elected.
“I can tell you that right now, there’s a young man out there somewhere struggling with a problem and he doesn’t see the way out,” Parnell said. “But I’ve been down that hole and I know the way out.”
He said there are young men in the U.S. who get charged with felony possession for having “a couple of joints” in a car and aren’t able to find jobs. There are mothers praying for their sons to come “home alive because he’s young and black and the odds are against him.”
Parnell, when asked how his experience realizing he needed counseling after hitting his then-wife would inform his policies, said he would work to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The act, passed to work to end violence against women by improving criminal justice measures and support for victims, was first passed in 1994 and has to be reauthorized
In the September spending bill, Congress granted The Violence Against Women Act a short-term reauthorization until Dec. 7.
Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan at the time, criticizing the short-term reauthorization.
“Republicans’ decision to include only a short-term VAWA re-authorization in the must-pass minibus spending bill is nothing short of an abdication of our responsibilities to women in our country,” Pelosi said in the letter.
Parnell said he should have been more transparent with voters from the beginning.
“I wish I had told you earlier,” Parnell said Wednesday. “I wish I had trusted those people in South Carolina District 5 who see me as who I am now, today, after 40 fulfilling years with Sarah. Those friends in South Carolina who see how I took responsibility both then and now, how I learned from my actions, and how I own my past, that I don’t hide from it, that I don’t make excuses, and that I am not defined by my worst moment.
“But I didn’t, I didn’t let you know when I should have. But I do now. I do because, without that night, I may not have ever gotten help. And if I had not gotten help, I wouldn’t be here today with you, in front of you.”
He also addressed other topics.
Parnell railed against President Donald Trump’s trade war, which he said put jobs in South Carolina at risk, and criticized his opponent Rep. Ralph Norman’s inappropriate joke about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Sept. 20 debate.
“Imagine a Congress that’s less interested in blaming each other for problems and more interested in actually solving them,” he said. “We can do it, folks. I can see that future right over the horizon.”
Parnell revealed a new policy plan during his Wednesday speech too. Nearly half a million South Carolinians don’t have access to broadband internet, he said.
In November 2017, BroadbandNow, an online database of broadband providers, said there were 517,000 people in South Carolina without access to a wired connection capable of 25 mbps download speeds.
“All across the nation, these dead spots are becoming educational and economic black holes,” Parnell said. “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Parnell said South Carolina could refit more than 600 South Carolina Education Television antenna towers to fill those holes and provide wireless broadband across the state.
“It’s smart, it’s necessary and it’s cost-effective,” he said. “And it’s only the tip of the iceberg.”