Mental Health Officials Upset With Taylor

Congressman Gene Taylor has been criticized for the some of words he's used to describe his Republican opponent in the November elections. Taylor has used words like ``clown'' to respond to Karl Mertz's call for a debate. On Tuesday, Taylor suggested the Long Beach resident belonged in Whitfield, Mississippi's state mental hospital. Some believe such comments slip the bounds of respectable political discourse.

Christy Dunaway, who works for a Jackson-based advocacy group for disabled people, says such comments promote the philosophy that ``people who have mental illnesses should be shut away.'' She says it's unacceptable for a congressman to talk that way. Holly Anderson, a spokeswoman for the National Mental Health Association, said her organization frowns on statements like that. Some political scientists are questioning why Taylor is bothering to acknowledge Mertz at all.

The businessman Mertz was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1972, 1974, 1998 and 2000 and unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 1975. Taylor was re-elected in 2000 with almost 80 percent of the vote. Taylor was first elected to Congress in 1989.