By Cameron Rasmusson
Controversial Charlottesville reactions continue to dog Idaho politicians, with Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, the latest to receive criticism.
In an article shared last week from website The American Thinker, Zollinger called speculation that the Charlottesville protests were staged — possibly by former President Barack Obama — “completely plausible.” After receiving abusive comments for sharing the post, Zollinger dug in on his position.
“At first, I felt genuinely bad that maybe I had offended somebody,” Zollinger told the Spokesman-Review. “Since then, the amazing amount of hate and the despicable things that have been said about myself, my wife, my kids, I’ve doubled down.”
The blog post posited that the Charlottesville chaos unfolded according to a plan laid by one or many players, including former President Barack Obama, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer. Billionaire George Soros, the blog post claimed, provided the funding for the false flag operation, which was bolstered by disruption from the far-left Antifa group also under Soros’ control.
“… Is this a wild conspiracy theory?” the blog post asks. “Perhaps. But the pieces fit. Will the DOJ and the FBI actually investigate the many mysteries that surround the events of that day? Not likely.”
Despite the article being full of unproven and disproven claims, Zollinger called it plausible, later backing down after media picked up on the story.
“In hindsight, maybe it was a mistake to post it,” Zollinger told the Idaho Statesman. “I didn’t mean for it to ruffle any feathers.”
Zollinger reversed that position after the weekend, reaffirming that he found the theory plausible and telling The Spokesman-Review that it was an “innocuous” and “thought-provoking” post. He also said that five donors have pledged him money for every nasty email, tweet and Facebook comment he receives.
“We’ve decided to at least make this more enjoyable for me,” he told The Spokesman-Review.
Zollinger’s controversy runs parallel with social media activity by District 1 Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who shared an article re-defining white nationalism. While law enforcement and human rights organizations define white nationalism as a movement seeking a white homeland and the separation of races, the article shared on Scott’s Facebook page claimed white nationalists were simply white Trump supporters who endorsed his “America First” agenda.
Scott quoted the following from the shared blog post: “The way the media has set this up, the mention of white nationalist (sic), which is no more than a Caucasian who for the Constitution and making America great again (sic), and confusing it with term (sic), ‘white supremacist’ which is extreme racism. Therefore, if one is ‘guilty’ of being white, one is clearly racist.”
This week, in an emailed statement to the Bonner County Daily Bee, Scott said she was simply trying to start a conversation. She also claimed it was not her, but instead liberals and the media, that were trying to redefine words.
“The quote was from the article’s author and not me,” Scott wrote. “It highlighted HIS views on how terms can be changed by the media or mean different things to different people.”
Scott also attacked Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell by name as a “Boise gossip column writer.”
“Her choice to print that Rep. Heather Scott defended white nationalism is a complete lie and shows her sad lack of any kind of professional journalism standards,” Scott wrote to the Daily Bee.
On Wednesday, Russell wrote a terse reply on the Spokesman-Review website.
“Here’s my response: We stand by our story,” she said.
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