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Profile: Kim Abbott
Kim Abbott was a participant or observer in the following events:
Jason Priest, a Republican candidate for a Montana State Senate position, makes a vulgar anti-gay comment on Facebook in response to a post about President Obama’s economic policies. On his campaign Web site, Priest says he is in favor of “less divisive politics” and promises to “contribute to a respectful discussion of our challenges.” However, on Facebook, Priest responds to a comment made by another poster that accused economist John Maynard Keynes of being gay by writing: “Since Keynes was a big homo if he’s fondling your b_lls it probably means you’re getting a reach around which is way better than what Obama is giving America. We are all getting the dry thumb.” [Jason Priest, 9/2010; Montana Cowgirl Blog, 9/2/2010; Matt Singer, 9/3/2010; Great Falls Tribune, 9/4/2010] Priest later issues the following statement: “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.” Montana blogger Matt Singer notes that Priest has stated on his own Facebook page that “when Republicans lie down with Democrats, Americans get fleas,” and says that Priest’s remarks prove he is quite divisive and homophobic. Another blogger who posts under the moniker “Montana Cowgirl” says, “This is not the conduct of someone that would be a Montana State Senator.” Montana human rights organizer Kim Abbott says of Priest’s comments: “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.… 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.” [Montana Cowgirl Blog, 9/2/2010; John S. Adams, 9/2/2010; Matt Singer, 9/3/2010; Great Falls Tribune, 9/4/2010]
Tim Ravndal, the head of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, apologizes for comments he made on his Facebook page that many interpreted as condoning the murder of homosexuals (see July 23, 2010). Ravndal later removed the comments, but they were preserved in a screenshot and published in the Great Falls Tribune. In the original comments, Ravndal seemed to approve of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student targeted for being gay. Ravndal says he “never made the connection” to Shepard’s murder until after it became the focus of blog posts and comments in recent days. “I wasn’t even thinking about the tragedy that happened in Wyoming,” he says. “I made a mistake and I apologize to anyone I offended. I do not condone violence to any human being.” Ravndal adds that his Facebook page is personal, and has nothing to do with the Big Sky Tea Party Association. Montana human rights organizer Kim Abbott is unimpressed by Ravndal’s apology. “Mr. Ravndal’s comments are outrageous,” she says. “He is a public figure, in the public sphere, condoning and making light of violence against gay people. It’s actually pretty frightening.” [Great Falls Tribune, 9/4/2010] Apparently Ravndal’s apology is insufficient; within days of his apology, he will be fired from his leadership post. [Associated Press, 9/8/2010] The organization’s secretary, Kristi Allen-Gailushas, who is a Republican candidate for the Montana state senate, defends Ravndal in a post to his Facebook page, writing: “No matter what you guys say, ’Tim is a great American and patriot.’ He does have a right to say what he wants. I know that he didn’t mean it, but in the heat of his anger with the ACLU might not have realized what he was saying. The people who are in the TEA party movement are called names all of the time. Racist, extremist… you name it. Tolerance needs to be done on both sides, especially the homosexual side. ’There isn’t any tolerance for people who have a different opinion than yours.’ If we say yes to gay marriage, where does it stop? The people who want to have more than one spouse will be next and that is against the law. The definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, are we now going to change the definition?” (All emphases from the original.) Allen-Gailushas will later post on Facebook, “The Gay community wants a war… they’ve got one!!” She later adds a clarification: “I didn’t mean a literal gun war, but a war of the truth and the hypocrisy they espouse.” [Think Progress, 9/7/2010]
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