A July 22 Page One article about a Virginia blogger incorrectly stated that Faisal Gill, a Republican candidate in the state's 51st House District, is the first Muslim nominee to the Virginia General Assembly. Another Muslim, Republican Kamal Nawash, ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2001 and the state Senate in 2003.
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Muscling a Web Site Into a Social Movement
"He has by far the most well-trafficked local blog in the state and, as far as influencing public policy, one of the most influential blogs in the country," said Ben Tribbett, whose Not Larry Sabato blog covers Virginia politics.
David Mastio, who tracks 200 Virginia political blogs on his Blognetnews.com, ranks Letiecq "the most influential conservative blogger in Northern Virginia" and among the top three most-influential political blogs in the state. Letiecq's site tallies about 47,000 distinct page views a day and counts 5,000 unique visitors, although he said he earns only about $1.50 a day from the operation because he doesn't have time to sell much advertising.
"He's a hard-hitting, blunt, tough commentator on politics, and people like that," said Mastio, who is also an editorial writer for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
"Fairfax County Harboring Illegal Aliens" was the title of a recent, and typical, Letiecq posting. Another warned "Zapatista Army Affiliate to Protest in PWC Today" -- taking yet another swipe at a favorite target, the immigrant rights group Mexicans Without Borders.
Letiecq even stars on the Web site of Mexicans without Borders -- playing the villain, of course. A photo of him smoking a cigarette and looking smug outside the Prince William County Board's chambers carries a caption that reads in Spanish: Greg Letiecq, "leader of the racist, recalcitrant anti-immigrant group 'Help to Save Manassas,' savors the hate, satisfied at having delivered a racist law for his group."
But to dismiss Black Velvet Bruce Li as the rantings of a fringe extremist underestimates Letiecq's reach and appeal. When he isn't fanning anti-illegal immigrant sentiment -- and providing a venue for raw, sometimes bigoted views, on his comment pages -- Letiecq reports on the minutiae of local news and politics to a degree no other media outlet has matched. Gossip, school board meetings, rumors, tax rate analysis -- it's all there on his site.
"He's filling a need for news at the local level," said Manassas City Council member Marc T. Aveni (R), who also is a member of Help Save Manassas.
Letiecq's blog is also more media-savvy than most, using video, photos and snazzy graphics. The blog is widely praised for its playful humor, often at the expense of local officials, such as a "Ham Sandwich for Commonwealth's Attorney" campaign mocking Democratic incumbent Paul B. Ebert, or the constant referral to a Democratic House of Delegates candidate, Jeanette Rishell, as "moonfruit."
Of French Canadian descent, Letiecq, 43, grew up outside Syracuse, N.Y., and majored in international relations at George Washington University. A year studying in France -- and assiduously adapting to French language and customs, he said -- cemented his perception that illegal immigrants are unwilling to adapt to U.S. culture.
In fact, Letiecq would not say that the anti-illegal immigrant campaign began in his basement so much as on his lawn. From there, he points to his neighbor's house, emanating loud salsa music, where he believes two "illegal aliens" are living. He doesn't have proof of this, of course, but pronounces his assumption as fact anyway.
Letiecq then points to a house two doors down, saying three families are living there with "six to eight" kids. He worries about crime, he said, and about his daughters, Lillian, 5, and Marian, 2, and whether public school resources are being diverted to English as a Second Language programs.
"This isn't the kind of neighborhood you'd think would be ground zero for this hot political issue," he said. "But there's no safe place anymore."