Washington Republicans should reflect on the old saying that a person is known by the company he keeps. State Rep. Matt Shea has kept some very bad company. If the House GOP caucus doesn’t disavow him, it becomes party to the reprehensible views Shea and his friends espouse.
Shea, a Spokane Valley Republican, participated in group text messages among right-wing activists in 2017, which were recently published by The Guardian. The group was developing plans to respond to anticipated liberal protests that they thought could become an “Antifa revolt.”
Shea’s friends’ texts were abhorrent, advocating violence and intimidation against liberal activists, referring to a specific woman, in particular.
“Fist full of hair, and face slam, to a Jersey barrier. Treat em like communist revolutionaries. Then shave her bald with a K-Bar USMC field knife,” one of Shea’s text-friends wrote. (We are not repeating some of the more disturbing comments.)
“When we locate antifa members we can confront their parents their workplaces their landlords. We can hit them in there [sic] safe spaces. … This should become a Pure psyops operation … If we can catch a few of them alone and work him over a little bit,” wrote another over three messages.
Shea didn’t personally advocate violence, but he also didn’t condemn it. In fact, he offered to help the cause by conducting background checks on suspected enemies. “What BG checks need to be done. Give me the list,” he wrote.
A sitting state lawmaker keeps close company with the violent fringe of the conservative movement. Is that the company that the rest of Washington’s Republicans want to keep?
At a minimum, House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox and the rest of the GOP leadership should kick Shea out of the House Republican caucus and issue a statement strongly condemning Shea’s offer to conduct background checks against political opponents that his chat-room buddies wanted to attack and brutalize. Washington state should not have someone like Shea even appear to condone such activity.
This can’t even be excused as a single lapse of judgment on Shea’s part. He has a history of engaging with radical conservative movements. He conducted “fact-finding” visits to Nevada and Oregon during standoffs against the federal government by the Bundy family, including the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Wilcox did take a hard line with Shea’s friends when he spoke to us on Wednesday.
“I will absolutely repeat my condemnation, in the strongest possible terms, of that kind of language, imagery and any kind of threat of political violence. We’re at a place in our country where — we’re just a powder keg. And we should be denouncing that when it happens,” he said.
Yet when it comes to Shea, Wilcox disappointingly is not ready to do more than talk. Although Wilcox has taken action against others for outrageous behavior, Shea’s offer to do background checks for this ill-intended group does not rise to that level, Wilcox said.
“I’ve proven that I will deal with issues inside the caucus. And I have explained what some of those issues were, and whenever we have things that reach those levels, I am not afraid to take action,” he said.
Yet Shea remains part of the caucus, brother to every other Republican in the House and in Washington. Judge them by the company they keep.