Ben & Jerry's Cofounder to Protest F-35 Basing Wednesday | Off Message

Ben & Jerry's Cofounder to Protest F-35 Basing Wednesday

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Opponents of basing F-35 fighter jets in Burlington have scooped up a prominent new ally.

No, it ain't Cherry Garcia — but perhaps the next best thing: Ben & Jerry's cofounder Ben Cohen.

"I think the F-35 is the poster child for all that's wrong with the Pentagon," Cohen says. "And I think it's a plane that doesn't have any purpose. Our enemies don't have air forces or fighter jets."

A press release issued Monday by South Burlington attorney Jimmy Leas and other local F-35 opponents said Cohen would join them for a press conference Wednesday outside Sen. Patrick Leahy's Main Street office in Burlington to speak out against the plane's proposed basing in Vermont. According to the release, Cohen would then march upstairs in an attempt to meet with Leahy, a strong supporter of bringing the planes to Burlington.

But Cohen says that's not quite the case. He says he'll meet with reporters, but doesn't plan to storm the castle. 

Leahy's office took exception to the group's press release.

"The group's publicity announcement itself is a trifecta of fallacies, distortions and innuendo. It's the very definition of a publicity stunt," Leahy spokesman David Carle said in a statement, noting that the senator is currently in Washington. "The group's first thought was a press release, and all else was afterthought, including requesting a conversation for Wednesday or even checking the Senate's very public schedule."

Carle added, "Sen. Leahy talked to Ben Cohen this afternoon and Ben told him he had not seen the release and did not write it. The two of them are longtime friends and, of course, Sen. Leahy takes Ben's word for it."

Cohen says he called Leahy earlier Wednesday to give him a heads-up about the action and had a "cordial" conversation with the senator.

Did Leahy sound like he would budge on the issue?

"No," Cohen reports. "He seems pretty locked in."

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