Summarized by Eric Bunker
Cook's Image-Repair Work Turns Weird With Roast
Salt Lake Tribune 24May99 L1
By John Heilprin: Salt Lake Tribune
Church member and Utah Congressman, Merrill Cook, has attempted to
rehabilitate his battered image and to get an early start on his 2000
re-election campaign by orchestrating a "roast" of himself at a fund-raising
dinner held a week ago last Saturday night.
Less than 150 people attended the $150-per-plate "COOK-out," but the poor
attendance at this strangely conceived event was further hampered by the
absence of the four other members of the Utah congressional delegation who
were supposed to attend.
The mood at the three-hour 'kind-of-weird' party started out with everyone
feeling a bit more uncomfortable than one usually would at a normal roast,
but it turned out to be good fun with the offering of inside jokes about
Cook's temperament. Jokes ranged from his emotional volatility to his
verbal abusiveness and staff firings, to his attack-and-repent tendency of
making unsupported or groundless accusations.
The unlikely moderator for the roast was Salt Lake area radio talk-show host
and Salt Lake Tribune columnist Tom Barberi, a self-described former
California Republican-turned-Utah independent. His no-holds-barred frequent
one-liners, poking fun at the political and Mormon establishment, kept the
Along with humorous notes from other US Congressmen, one of Sen. Orrin
Hatch's aides read a letter from him making light of Cook's cursing tirades
against fellow Republicans and staffers in Washington D. C.
In the upcoming election, Rep. Cook already faces Democrat Jim Matheson, a
Salt Lake City energy consultant with the name recognition of his late
father, Scott Matheson, a popular Democratic governor. Rep. Cook likely will
also be challenged for the GOP primary nomination by fellow Republicans who
worry about Cook's electability because of his controversial public persona
and who want to ensure the GOP retains Utah's 2nd District seat.