Friday, September 10, 2010
Due to the recent boom of activity at The Lowdown as of late, I figured this message might be appropriate.
I'll be out of the office for the remainder of the weekend. Hopefully I'll return with an elk to pack in my freezer. If not, at the very least I'll get to watch Aaron Rodgers and the Packers destroy the Eagles Sunday afternoon, which should put me in a fine mood to start the week.
In the meantime, I won't be moderating any comments posted while I'm away. If you post comment on The Lowdown between now and Monday, please be patient. I'll get to comments and post them as soon as I return.
Thanks for stopping by, and Go Pack!
This is the last I’m going to post about the Tim Ravndal saga for a while, but I wanted to share this e-mail that Ravndal sent to members of the Big Sky Tea Party Association.
Ravndal apparently sent this out around the same time he sent out his press release to statewide media.
I don’t even know where to begin with analyzing this, and quite frankly I don’t have the time today, but I thought many of you might find this very interesting so I decided to post it here at your friendly neighborhood capital blog.
I might remind readers that Ravndal is lying when he says he had “not been given that opportunity” to tell his side of the story. I interviewed him and reported on his side of the story last week, two days before his removal as Big Sky Tea Party Association president. A BSTPA source told me Ravndal warned the board that my story was coming, and then promptly left town. The fact that Ravndal told at least one BSTPA official to expect to see my story in the Great Falls Tribune is proof enough that I interviewed Ravndal. I don’t understand why he continues to lie about that fact.
Here’s his letter. The emphases are Ravndal’s.
Big Sky Tea Party Association
I wish to thank you for giving me the privilege of addressing the group last night. It is a difficult situation we were all in, and I would like to say I am sorry to each and every one that has put so much work into our organization.
I would like to take another moment of your time here to reiterate my position in this unfortunate situation. As the press has only taken the bits and pieces of the facts and moved them forward, conclusions have been drawn on political correctness and half truths. It is important to make every effort I can to insure the facts are exposed for those that are interested in the truth.
The story regarding my mistake in my personal face book account broke last Friday. The news media from Great Falls did a story, and that story began a firestorm of attacks on everyone across the great state of Montana involved in the tea party movement. I apologize again for not doing my duty and informing the group immediately. I also from my heart apologize to the many hard working individuals across Montana that have devoted so much time and energy in developing the Montana tea party movement.
In July, I posted a comment and link to the ACLU lawsuit against Montana and gay marriage. I led the post with a personal comment: “Marriage is between a Man and a Woman.” I continued with stating that: “the lawsuit would be a violation of my rights provided here under our Montana Constitution.” The defending of the constitution has been the cornerstone of BSTPA and every tea party group across America. This particular issue has been at the top of the list of BSTPA and we have been engaged in this battle for quite some time, dating back to an event in Townsend. Everyone at the meeting last night acknowledged that and agreed.
At the end of August, Dennis from Miles City posted a comment on my face book thread. His post led with identifying homosexuals as “fruits.” I immediately was put on guard here with the inflammatory identification, but as anyone knows, there are many levels of personal use of the English language used on face book. Everyone also agrees that Freedom of Speech is paramount to our engaging in any battles to defend the constitution.
So, in the interest in pursuing an explanation for his comment about a display manual in Wyoming, I asked for a copy. It is at this juncture that everyone that has been thrust into the mass judgment against me, understand a time frame plays a very important part here. It is essential to know that upon replying to the post made by Dennis, where I asked for a printed version of the manual, and a comment to Keith on the first amendment, I left face book!
Several hours went by and I returned to face book to see there was a response to my inquiry to Dennis. As I opened up the thread and read Dennis’s response, I was appalled! I also realized that it was now viral as many other posts on this thread were demonizing me for condoning the torture and violations of the rights of Mathew Shepherd. This was honestly the first time I had made any connection to the tragic event that happened years ago in Wyoming. I immediately reacted to my newly discovered devastating dialogue and removed the entire post. I was disgusted and I still am.
The post had already been picked up by the Montana Human Rights Network, and ACLU as well as many blogs across the nation. I issued an immediate apology on face book for the understandably and agreed vile discussion that was on my face book account. The removal of the thread and my apology immediately fueled the firestorm. “Too little Too late!”
As I was leaving town for a funeral service of a friend in Anaconda and to work on some family property there, I again made a mistake of not notifying the BSTPA board of directors of this development. That was wrong, and I apologize to the board of directors and officers of the corporation. I also apologize to the leadership of other groups across our great state, as they should have been afforded a heads up on this from me.
The next I hear on this issue is a couple of messages from the BSTPA Chairman of the Board Jim Walker advising me of an emergency meeting that is about to take place and its conclusion. These messages were left on my cell phone. The first message again stated a meeting was being held, and the second stated that I had been removed from office and as a member of BSTPA.
I decided that it was best for me to wait until I returned home to insure I was fully informed on the entire incident before proceeding. On Monday afternoon I got home to find literally hundreds of threatening emails messages and the post that I had made an apology in face book was filled with hate messages against me and the tea party movement.
It is here that I decided that it was not beneficial to me or anyone else affected by this tragic event to comment without addressing the Big Sky Tea Party Association first. As I had not been given that opportunity prior to my removal from office of president, I felt that my obligation to the organization membership dictated a response directly to them first. I consequently made a request to attend and address the BSTPA meeting on Tuesday evening.
I am sad that the board of directors of BSTPA reacted to this event in such an extreme manner without providing for due process. As the board did operate somewhat within the guidelines of the bylaws, the board failed to provide a hearing for due process.
At the meeting I referenced that I was thrown under the bus, and in a situation like this, I was certainly the best candidate for that action. I have been in the spotlight for many years here in Montana fighting for the rights of the people and standing in the face of tyranny.
Who better to sacrifice or crucify than me. I understand that, and I have put myself in that position without fear and accept those consequences as I believe from the bottom of my heart in this battle for our future and our lives.
It is here that I must say to everyone that I am very hurt by the knee jerk reaction that the board of directors took. I found that the emergency board meeting was called with a pre written press release with a predetermined outcome of the meeting stating my removal from the office of president and as a member of BSTPA. Again, due process was circumvented at every juncture up to and including the meeting of the board.
I earlier stated that I have been in the spotlight for many years and that this position has been a personal choice of mine knowing full well the ramifications that can and usually do come from being in that lead position. I have worked diligently across this country networking with every like minded organization and individual I could find. I take that responsibility with pride for the work that I have accomplished while at the same time, I am deeply saddened by the collateral damage that has been caused by my actions and those of the BSTPA board.
Had this been handled internally and with professionalism providing due process we would likely be focused on moving forward rather than finding ourselves fully engaged in damage control. It is once again, my responsibility for my actions or lack thereof and I own up to my shortcomings.
It is my uncomfortable position to point out that the decision to go public with our internal issue here has caused a tremendous amount collateral damage. The decision by the board to post a press release has caused a direct attack on the position of Kristi. Her association with the group and her pending lawsuit is now the next tangible target of our opponents. The boards’ action in placating the human rights network and other calls for action are coming with consequences. It will be very difficult for us to move forward with a position of solidarity at this juncture. Our foundation is weakened and our opponents know it.
I fear the event that BSTPA has sponsored for the 18th is in jeopardy of a direct frontal attack by the extreme left. I advise the leadership of BSTPA to contact security at the Capitol immediately and prepare for the worst. The door is opened, and I am already hearing dissent from outside organizations. So, the decision to go public with this by the board is going to have ramifications to the ability to stage any events in public in at least the near future.
Another aspect of the collateral damage that the board failed to consider when going public is the Montana Viewpoint. The conservative tea party magazine that is getting started is now also in the cross hairs more than ever because of the actions by the board. This too shall pass, but I truly do not believe that the boards of directors were looking outside of the box when they took action.
I made a promise to Kristi that I would stand in front of her to protect her and her family from harm. I am keeping that promise regardless of the final outcome of this event. I can only hope that the friendship that has been developed over the past year and a half will show Kristi that we are united on providing that protection for her as she moves forward in pursuing due process in court. I guarantee that she will need each and every one of us, without hesitation.
I took on the task of leadership of BSTPA to pull this organization out of the rut that it was in to build it into an organization to be reckoned with. We were beginning down that route, and were actually starting to see some direction with established goals. If BSTPA is to survive, it is paramount to set these goals to fulfill the mission statement. I have said before, BSTPA must have solid goals and pursue them, or we will be nothing more than a doughnut dunking tea sipping social club. With or without my participation, I urge you to move forward with this in mind.
So, in closing, if the board of directors chooses to defend their position to throw me under the bus, I accept that. If the board should so choose to provide for due process and to reconsider, I will certainly welcome the opportunity to work with you to stand for the membership of BSTPA. Last but not least, I must ask you to request that each and every member of BSTPA and the Montana tea party community physically and publically stand behind Kristi. Please pull her out from under the bus and defend her!
In the event that the board of directors of the Big Sky Tea Party Association is not willing to reconsider, I reluctantly will bid you my best wishes and move forward standing in the face of tyranny without you in the name of freedom.
Respectfully and from my heart!
[I removed his telephone number from the e-mail note. – jsa]
Cc: Leaders of Montana Tea Party Organizations
Thursday, September 9, 2010
He didn’t send it to me.
In the statement, Mr. Ravndal claims that I went forward with my story “without all the details.” He also implies at several points in the letter that I didn’t contact him prior to writing the story.
I don’t know what missing details Mr. Ravndal is referring to because he doesn’t spell it out in the statement.
Did I quote the entire Facebook exchange verbatim? Yes.
Did I quote him accurately from our telephone interview Friday? Yes.
So what “details” were missing?
Ravndal never elucidates.
The implication that I didn’t interview him is absurd on it’s face. I’d have to look at the telephone records to say for sure how long I spoke with Ravndal on Friday afternoon, and believe me I will if he continues to imply that I didn’t interview him, but I imagine it was probably about 10 minutes. During that interview he, as I reported, apologized for the comment he made on Facebook. But he never explained what he thought Dennis Scranton meant when he said “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions,” or what Ravandal meant when he said he wanted a copy of the “Wyoming printed instruction manual.” When I asked him, “what did you think Scranton meant by hanging fruits? What instruction manual were you referring to?” Ravndal said, and I quote, “You’re really starting to irritate me.”
I took Ravndal at his word when he said he didn’t make the connection to the Shepard murder, and that’s what I reported. I don’t know how that adds up to writing only “half the story.”
I’m fine with people criticizing my reporting. Journalists have pretty thick skin. What I’m not ok with is the implication that I somehow withheld information or lied in my story. If I did not interview Ravndal on Friday, then that would mean the quotes I attributed to him in Saturday’s story were fabricated. Fabrication, of course, is career-ending offense for a journalist.
I spoke briefly with Mr. Ravndal Thursday afternoon, but he didn’t offer much in the way of clarification. In the interest of making sure there was no confusion over what was said during our discussion, or whether I withheld anything, as Mr. Ravndal accused me of in his press release, I recorded the interview.
Here’s the audio.
That abrupt ending is the sound of Mr. Ravndal hanging up on me.
While Ravndal, for whatever reason, refused to state on the record whether or not I interviewed him on Friday, I will state very plainly, and on the record, that I did.
In other news, I had a lengthy conversation with Big Sky Tea Party Association board member and past president Roger Nummerdor today. Nummerdor said the board of the Big Sky Tea Party Association will likely meet sometime this weekend to vote on whether or not Ravndal’s membership in the group should be reinstated. Nummerdor said that meeting probably won’t be open to the public, but he said the board would notify the group’s membership of the decision as soon as it happens.
On a side note, I asked Nummerdor if he thought my reporting on Ravndal’s Facebook comment was fair. He said he thought that it was. The only problem he had with the story was the headline, which read “Montana tea party leader apologizes for post hinting at violence toward gays.” Nummerdor pointed out that Montana Big Sky Tea Party Association is a Helena-based group, not a statewide group. He said the headline suggested that Ravndal was the leader of the tea party statewide, which is not the case.
“He was not the Montana tea party leader, he was the leader of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, strictly the Helena group,” Nummerdor said. “And he was the leader of that group for less than a month.”
Ravndal told the Associated Press that he wants his leadership post back.
Nummerdor said, “He’s done as president.”
Here’s the statement Ravndal sent to the press earlier today. The first part is the text included in the body of the e-mail.
The attached press release is on the story regarding the tea party story. Your help getting the whole truth out is appreciated.
Big Sky Tea Party Association & Face Book
It has been reported by a variety of media sources about the face book exchange and the consequent removal of Tim Ravndal from the office of President of the Big Sky Tea Party Association.
It is important to recognize that the story that started on face book continued with a breaking story in the Great Falls Tribune. The Great Falls Tribune reporter John went forward with his story without all the details. Furthermore, John appeared only interested in the third party comments. Upon the inability to get the desired results, John went with part of the truth, breaking the news to the people of Montana. Hence, we have a story based on a foundation built with only part of the truth.
Tim respectfully declined to speak to the media until after having an opportunity to hear from the Board and members of Big Sky Tea Party Association who he proudly served. Since the story broke, many blogs, and news media sources posted stories based on the same partial information in the tribune article. The frenzy was also sparked by the social media threads from face book. Up until the meeting with Big Sky Tea Party Association last night, no media source had made contact with Tim in getting his side of this story.
Up to and including the story that was on the Television last night and the reporting in the Independent Record today we continue to see only half the story. All the conclusions on this matter have been based on partial truths and political correctness. The consequent headlines and associated stories speak for themselves.
Tim would like to first and foremost send his apologies for the misconception of facts to the family and friends of Mathew Shepherd. The implications that Tim condoned Mathew’s terrible ordeal years ago is utterly false and frankly embarrassing to see the media purporting this without having the facts.
The stereotyping of any and all representatives of the tea party movement has become standard operating procedure by the liberal media across America and most if not all liberal blogs. Tim states that he is aware that he has been in this spotlight for many years, as he has stood in front of the world demanding the rights of the people be protected.
In an attempt to provide an apology to those that were harmed by this ordeal, Tim has received over 600 and counting threats from the very same people that are condemning the dialogue found on face book. It is again important to know that the information that everyone is basing their conclusions on is only partially there.
Beginning with the face book thread, there is a time lapse between postings. There is a period of time when Tim left face book after he made the request for a manual in writing to understand what was being talked about. Asking for a display manual based at this point in the thread is hardly implicative of condoning torture or murder.
Upon return to the thread some time later, that is when the discriminating post made by a third individual made the connection to the Wyoming tragedy. It is also important to note, the media nor most people have ever seen this derogatory comment.
I have been given ownership of all comments, and rightfully so, as they are on my personal face book account. Unfortunately, the ownership of these comments has portrayed me as a murderous bigot. Most everyone has discarded the pesky little facts and have bypassed the jury and gone straight to the executioner.
The media has continued to short run the story without facts. The public is continuing to pass judgment based on half the story. Tim was notified today by another party that they have been getting messages on their private number from Montana media sources requesting an interview. With as notorious as this trashing has made Tim and his friends, it is amazing the same Great Falls Tribune that broke the story cannot seem to find his number.
As Tim continues to seek a fair shake in this kangaroo court being held, he hopes that those that are responsible will do what is right. Everyone that has passed judgment without giving the courtesy of seeking out the facts shows how political correctness and social justice continues to prevail over honesty and integrity.
This too shall pass, and in the end, I will walk down the street with my head held high facing tyranny wherever it is exposed. Our liberty and freedom in this country and the sacrifices that have been made in the name of our republic must be defended.
Our Montana Constitution protects marriage between a man and a woman. Until the political machine changes that basic right, I will continue to stand in defending our Constitution and this provision.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
In case you missed it, a lot has happened in the days since we first reported Tim Ravndal’s comments in the Tribune.
In the interest of keeping Lowdown readers up to speed on developments in what has turned out to be a story of national interest, here’s a quick timeline of events for those who have been living under a rock (or in my case, the Wilderness) for the past few days:
Thursday, Sept. 2: Blogger D Gregory Smith first posts a screen shot of this shocking exchange between Big Sky Tea Party Association President Tim Ravndal and Facebook user Dennis Scranton (who has since removed most of the content from his Facebook page).
Friday, Sept. 3: The above comments are brought to Tribune’s attention late in the afternoon. The Montana Human Rights Network demands that the BSTPA board remove Ravndal as president. Ravndal, when contacted by the Tribune capital bureau, apologizes for the comment, saying he “never made the connection” between Scranton’s comments and the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old college student whose gruesome death became a national symbol of hate crimes against gays. Scranton, reached at his home, declines to comment, telling the reporter “F*** you!” before hanging up.
Saturday, Sept. 4: The report about Ravndal’s comment and the backlash surrounding it runs in the Great Falls Tribune.
Sunday, Sept. 5: Jim Walker, chairman of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, issues the following statement announcing that the board voted unanimously to remove Ravndal as president and member of the non-profit organization because of unacceptable comments made on his personal Facebook account:
“Our Board learned about the situation from an article in the Great Falls Tribune on Saturday. We immediately called an emergency meeting for the following morning. We are extremely disappointed by Mr. Ravndal’s commentary. The discussion in that Facebook conversation is entirely outside the position of the Big Sky Tea Party. Even though Mr. Ravndal was having a personal conversation and made no reference to our group, we felt strongly that swift and decisive action was required as we can not accept that sort of behavior from within our membership, let alone from an officer of the corporation. We continually make it known that we will not tolerate bigoted dialog, behavior or messages at our functions, our meetings or within our ranks. If a person demonstrates bigotry relative to race, sex, ethnicity, etc they are not welcome in our organization. The Tea Party movement is about standing up for individual freedom for everyone.Monday, Sept. 6: While standing atop Stuart Peak in the Rattlesnake Wilderness, my new “smart” phone buzzes. I see that I have an e-mail from the Big Sky Tea Party Association and I read Walker’s statement. I immediately forward the e-mail to the Tribune newsroom before my phone’s battery dies. I continue hiking. Political blogger MTCowgirl.com reports that Big Sky Tea Party Association secretary and Helena-area GOP legislative candidate Kristi Allen-Gailushas declared “war” on the gay community on her Facebook page.
I do believe Mr. Ravndal when he explained that he was in no way intending to promote violence and that he was not thinking about nor condoning the murder of an innocent victim in Wyoming in 1998 when he responded to some very disturbing comments made by another individual. However, no matter how we considered the commentary, it was clear to us that he was participating in conversation which was overtly bigoted and we cannot have an officer of our corporation engaging in such behavior.”
Tuesday, Sept. 7: News of Ravndal’s ouster makes front page headlines across the state. Allen-Gailushas quits the group, telling the Helena Independent Record that the organization’s board members…
“…didn't even listen to Tim and what he had to say. They were just worried about the [Montana] Human Rights Network and the ACLU and what they were going to say."
According to the Helena IR, several tea party members protest Ravndal’s ouster and defend their former president at a meeting of the Big Sky Tea Party Association. Acting board chairman Roger Nummerdor says board members will meet soon to consider reinstating Ravndal’s membership in the group, but he doesn’t set a date for the meeting. Board members Tom Baird, Bobette Madonna, and Bob Connor backtrack from Walker’s statement that the board “felt strongly that swift and decisive action was required as we can not accept that sort of behavior from within our membership, let alone from an officer of the corporation.”
From the Helena IR:
“What happened to Tim is cruel, it’s unnecessary,” said Madonna. “They’re making a fool of people who are responsible and decent.”Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg, a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, issues a statement through an aide in support of the Big Sky Tea Party Association’s decision to dismiss Ravndal.
Board member Bob Conner cast one of the votes for Ravndal’s dismissal, but said he did so reluctantly and now favored reconsideration.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of discussion about Mr. Ravndal’s comments out there in the Internet ether.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
For the second time this week a prominent Montana conservative political figure apologized for posting highly-offensive remarks against homosexuals on Facebook.
On Wednesday it was Red Lodge GOP senate candidate Jason Priest.
The latest offender is Big Sky Tea Party Association president Tim Ravndal.
The Montana Human Rights Network demanded that the Big Sky Tea Party Association remove Ravndal in light of the post.
“I would like to know if Mr. Ravndal thinks that gay people are entitled to the same safety, security, and protections as everyone else, because his comments seem to suggest he thinks it’s okay to hurt or even kill members of the LGBT community,” said Kim Abbott, an MHRN organizer.
Ravndal, a prominent figure in the state’s tea party movement and “director of grassroots coalitions” for former GOP state Rep. John Sinrud’s group Western Tradition Partnership, made the comment on July 23 in regards to an article in the Billings Gazette about an ACLU lawsuit over rights for same-sex couples.
The Facebook comment has since been removed, but the Tribune has obtained photo documenting the exchange and this is how it read:
Tim Ravndal: “Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the constitution and my own rights”
Kieth Baker: “How dare you exercise your First Amendment Rights?”
Dennis Scranton: “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Tim Ravndal: “@Kieth, OOPS I forgot this aint(sic) America no more! @ Dennis, Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
Dennis Scranton: “Should be able to get info Gazette archives. Maybe even an illustration. Go back a bit over ten years.”
(Here’s a link to a blog post that has the screen shot.)
The exchange between Ravndal and Facebook user Dennis Scranton references the 1998 slaying of 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was brutally beaten and tied to a fence post where he was left to die. During the trail witnesses testified that Shepard was targeted because he was gay.
“Mr. Ravndal’s comments are outrageous. He is a public figure, in the public sphere condoning and making light of violence against gay people. It’s actually pretty frightening,” Abbott said.
Ravndal apologized for the comment on Friday saying he “never made the connection” to Shepard’s murder until after national bloggers picked up on it and his phone started ringing earlier this week.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the tragedy that happened in Wyoming,” Ravndal said in an interview with the Tribune Friday. “I made a mistake and I apologize to anyone I offended. I do not condone violence to any human being.”
Ravndal said his Facebook page is personal and has nothing to do with the Big Sky Tea Party Association. Ravndal also said he has “disassociated” from Scranton.
I called Scranton at his Miles City home yesterday. Scranton’s response when I asked him about the Facebook comment was, well…also inappropriate to print in family newspaper. But since this is the web and nobody reads this blog anyway, here it is for your reading enjoyment:
JSA: Is this Dennis?
JSA: Dennis, I’d like to talk to you about a recent comment on Facebook…
Scranton: “You know what? You know what? I don’t give a fat f*** whether you want a comment or not. So f*** you!”
(Laughter in background…)
JSA: So does that mean you you have no comment?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Jason Priest, who is running in Senate District 30 against Democrat Aaron Kampfe, also of Red Lodge, posted the comment in response to Facebook user Michael J. Morse’s status update criticizing Obama’s address to the nation Tuesday night.
The comment has since been removed, but here’s a snapshot of the original comment:
I'm not going to speculate about the intended meaning of Priest's comment. If you want to know what he meant by "reach around" or "dry thumb," you can ask Priest himself (as I did but got no answer), or look it up.
Kim Abbott of the Montana Human Rights Network had this to say about Priest’s ill-advised post:
“When someone who is running for elective office is using anti-gay slurs and questionable judgment about what they say in the public sphere—and I think we can all agree that new media is public—it’s problematic.
We have really important legislation coming up in the next session that will protect lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender Montanans, and it just becomes even more important—when you see this stuff coming from someone who wants to be in the legislature—that we pass these protections.”
Here’s Priest’s apology:
“Recently I posted a comment online that was offensive to some of those who read it. My passion for controlling spending overcame my better judgment and my crude metaphor understandably detracted from the point of my comment. It was a poor choice of words and I apologize to anyone I have offended.”
Given that the Montana Republican Party has endorsed a platform that calls for criminalizing “homosexual acts,” it’s not surprising to see such a "poor choice of words," coming from a GOP candidate, Abbot said.
“I’m glad that he recognized that an apology was in order, but it’s still upsetting that this is in his day-to-day dialogue. The fact that he would use a slur like ‘big homo’ is problematic for a candidate who wants to represent an entire district at the capitol.”