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His parents are supportive of the lifestyle, he says, in part because the family agrees on most civic issues. It doesn't hurt that the fire Botello breathes tends to singe the lapels of his mother's political enemies.
Before Valenciano announced her run for City Council in 2007, Botello trashed her eventual opponent, Beth Gottstein, making no mention of his mother's plan to run. And before Botello became known as outgoing Mayor Mark Funkhouser's most aggressive critic, Valenciano led the outrage over Funkhouser's appointment of a Minuteman Project member to the city's parks board.
Valenciano has downplayed her role in her son's politics, calling him "too big for me to spank and send to his room." But Botello is open about how his politics have been shaped. "She does have influence over me," he says, "whether she likes it or not."
There is one stipulation that comes with his parents' support: The site's minimal costs must be directly billable to Botello. It's their way of avoiding liability when the eventual libel lawsuit comes. Or as Botello phrases it: "If you have problems with this asshole, talk to him."
"It is the way people really fucking talk!" Botello is saying.
We've arrived inevitably at the way his blog treats women. Not the big-chested jpegs he tattoos on every third story. We're talking — me on his dad's couch and him clicking away — about the real women, reporters and politicians and actual members of the female species, whom Botello sometimes seems to think exist solely to decline his offers of sex.
"Female journalists in this city are skanks," he once wrote. The Star's City Hall reporter, Lynn Horsley, is an "old skank." Fox 4's Shauna Thomas is "a local TV skank" and just "one more reason not to pay any attention to the tramps that read the news." He called Star lifestyle columnist Jeneé Osterheldt a "stupid bitch," a "dumb ho" and a "broad" in the span of one short blog post. The slurs appeared next to the phrase "Be nice," a request that Botello makes of tipsters.
"It is the way people fucking talk" and "I am channeling my inner teenager" and "That's the persona I created" and "It is a character" and "It's meant to get a rise out of people," Botello says of the chauvinism, which he pairs with occasional bouts of homophobia (The Pitch harbors "burning lesbian vengeance") and anti-Semitism ("tall Israeli media") and, occasionally, just plain dickishness. After Star music critic Tim Finn's wife died suddenly of an aneurysm, Botello reported that Finn was dating the former girlfriend of a fellow blogger. Botello accused Finn of "playing the grief card" and asked aloud how that blogger's "balls taste in your mouth." (Finn declined to comment; that one, Botello admits, went too far.)
The frothing intolerance of the TKC voice would be less troubling if the rest of his profile matched the basement-dwelling vibe he cultivates. But he has hustled his sleep- and manners-deprived self to indisputable relevance.
After establishing TKC as the city's most exhaustive local-news aggregator — creating a constant feed of interesting stories and lacquering it with his unpolished outrage — Botello started hearing from insiders in city politics. He posted their tips with virtually no vetting, making the site feel fresh even to the most informed readers.
Russ Ptacek, Channel 41's investigative reporter, recalls using Botello's middle-of-the-night posts to arm himself for the station's morning story meetings. Now, he says, everyone has already read Botello come meeting time. Still, he counts Botello as a "must read."
"It would be the Star, it would be The Pitch, it would be the Kansas City Business Journal, and it would be Tony," Ptacek says. "The first three are much more likely to be accurate. But the fourth is the most likely to give me a story."