OLYMPIA — Washington state Rep. Matt Shea took to Facebook to defend himself against allegations that he participated in a group chat that discussed attacking and conducting background checks on political opponents.
The Republican from Spokane Valley did not deny sending texts. But in his Facebook post late Monday night, he called a weekend report in The Guardian newspaper “an extremely misleading hit-piece” and wrote that he has only carried out background checks on people after receiving threats.
“Of course I have done background checks to protect my family and my community, but that was only in response to threats already coming from the left,” Shea wrote. “I will continue to fight to protect the Constitution, my family, and my community. I will not back down. I will not quit. I will not give in. Ever.”
It was unclear what Shea, 45, meant in his Facebook post or the group texts when he referred to background checks. But The Guardian published a text reportedly by him that read: “Ok. What BG checks need to be done. Give me the list.”
The 2017 group chat reported by The Guardian included messages supposedly exchanged among Shea and right-wing activists worried about November 2017 demonstrations around the nation that had been organized by anti-fascists.
In the messages posted by The Guardian, Shea did not call for violence.
The Guardian said it obtained the messages from a chat member the publication declined to name. The messages discussed attacking demonstrators physically, appearing at their homes, or at day-care providers where their children go, and performing background checks on political organizers.
Since the report posted, Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib and the Washington State Democratic Party have called on Shea to be kicked out of the House Republican caucus. Gov. Jay Inslee also weighed in to condemn the lawmaker.
House GOP Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm in a statement Monday condemned threats of political violence and the statements made by others in the text conversation with Shea.
Those messages included one that read, “If we can catch a few of them alone and work him over a little bit,” according to The Guardian report.
Another, according to The Guardian, read: “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.”
In his Monday night Facebook post, Shea, an attorney and military veteran first elected in 2008, also said he didn’t take Inslee’s condemnation seriously.
“To Governor Inslee, I do not take seriously an admonition against violence from someone who routinely fails to condemn Antifa acts of terrorism in this state and the barbaric rhetoric aimed at our President on the one hand while supporting the systematic murder of babies in the womb on the other,” Shea wrote.
Shea instead asked Inslee to join him on an international mission to preach the Christian Gospel.
On Tuesday morning, House Democratic leaders in a statement called on House Republicans to take action against Shea.
“Rep. Matt Shea’s offer to conduct background checks and his association with those condoning violence, surveillance and intimidation on political opponents is abhorrent,” according to the statement. “We strongly condemn his words and actions. Rep. Shea has shown through his pattern of increasingly alarming behavior that he has no remorse or willingness to change.”
“We call on House Republican Leadership to act swiftly and decisively,” the statement added.
For years, Shea has attracted controversy for his statements, actions and associations, even as voters in Spokane County’s 4th legislative district comfortably re-elect him. News reports have documented “fact-finding” trips to Nevada and Oregon during standoffs overseen by Bundy family members in those states in 2014 and 2016, according to news reports.
Last year, Shea was scheduled to speak at a meeting in Montana for anti-government conspiracy theorists, headlined by Ammon Bundy, who spearheaded the 2016 armed takeover of the Oregon Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Last Fall, Shea drew scrutiny for distributing a four-page manifesto espousing a biblical basis for war and discussing the composition of a “Holy Army.”