TEA Party republicans are attempting distance themselves from a group they promoted and for which they appeared as keynote speakers after a local reporter started asking questions. However, in the same news story, the lawmakers say they plan to implement the very group’s ideas. Here’s what happened.
The Missoula Independent was the only news outlet savvy enough to cover the “Defend Rural America” secessionist meeting promoted by the vice-Chair of the Montana Republican Party and headlined by GOP County commissioners and legislators from Flathead, Ravalli (of course), Mineral, Madison, and Sweetgrass counties. TEA Party GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, Matt Rosendale, also attended the event and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the group’s proposals. The event was also attended by former Whitefish legislator Derek Skees, who is a candidate for Public Service Commissioner.
At the Defend Rural America event, the group’s leader Kirk MacKenzie said:
“What is the single biggest problem in rural America?” he asked rhetorically during his speech. “Neo-environmentalism. I am not talking about environmentalism. I am talking about a political movement that disguises itself in a green cloak … If you peel it back, you will see what I have been seeing … watermelons, green on the outside, red on the inside … In my opinion, they are domestic terrorists.
When a reporter from the Indie asked the legislators what they thought of this imbecilic conspiracy-mongering, they tried to run from the group. Jennifer Fielder even tried to claim she didn’t know this was what the meeting was going to be about.
Apparently, these lawmakers expect us to believe they agreed to promote an organization they knew nothing about – that they didn’t know of the group’s association with white supremacists–or of the groups support for secessionists across the U.S. That they had no idea what these people stand for — and indeed had not even made a simple visit the group’s website.
Yet both lawmakers went on the record in the very same article that they plan to implement Defend Rural America’s ideas. (Sight unseen, if you believe their previous statements.)
You can’t promote a group, agree to be a keynote speaker at its premier event in your state, write op-eds supporting the group’s proposals, then take no responsibility for the group’s ideas.
Nor can these legislators and commissioners expect everyone to ignore the kind of people and rhetoric they promote. That these Montana TEA Partiers refuse to own up to their own role in promoting Defend Rural America’s proposals and beliefs are bad enough. The fact that Rep. Ballance and Sen. Fielder say they plan to implement the group’s crackpot ideas is even worse.