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Matt Shea: I do background checks on people who threaten me

Washington State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, adjusts his laptop computer on the floor of the House, Monday, April 22, 2019, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Matt Shea says that he is the target of a political attack after private chat messages were published online, and further, he did not conspire to commit acts of violence against Spokane-area liberals.

“No, not in the sense they are trying to put out there,” Shea told Jason Rantz on KTTH. “The fact of the matter is that this conversation was started by the individual who ended up leaking this to the media  …. he added me (to the conversation) two days after the more egregious part of the conversation that is being trotted out there.”

Shea lives in Spokane Valley and represents District 4 in the state House. He has faced a series of controversies in recent months, the most recent stemming from a Guardian article that reveals he participated in an online conversation with three other men. The chat messages include violent rhetoric about what they wanted to do with Spokane-area liberals.

One message was about a woman living in Spokane: “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.”

Shea did not engage in violent discussion, rather focused on running background checks on local liberals.

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But Shea argues that the article stretches the story out of context, puts the facts out of order, and is misleading.

“I did talk about doing background checks and I stand by doing background checks against people, particularly, who are threatening my family, my community,” he said.

“It’s important to note that this was in the context of leading up to the November 4 ‘Day of Rage’ where local leftist groups, and national leftist groups for that matter, were already advocating violence and threatening the destruction of property and all kinds of other things publicly,” Shea said. “So in response to that, in response to the many death threats I have received, I do many background checks, absolutely. I think it is essential to evaluate threats properly.”

Shea told Rantz that this way of countering the left is through the Legislature and on social media.

“I don’t condone going to people’s houses and conducting violence at their houses,” he said. “….We need to beat the Socialist movement here in Washington state in the battle of ideas, online, and especially using social media.”

Background checks

Shea says he has posted online a “host of different death threats from various people.” This is not surveillance, he argues. It’s responding to people who associate with violent groups.

He explained one such example — a person who threatened him and his family at an election night event.

“That individual, we were able to ascertain through looking through some of his conversations online, had said we need to take Shea out,” Shea said. “So I transferred that information to House security here in Olympia. They were monitoring his Facebook page. Three months later he was arrested for a triple homicide — convicted of a triple homicide in North Spokane.

“After they arrested him, in his house they found a folder with my picture, my wife’s picture in it with comments written to a third party,” he said. “….So I think researching people on the internet and taking a look at who these people are to ascertain threats is something I have a duty to do to protect my family and also to protect my community.”

Shea, racism, and antisemitism

The controversy over chat messages is just the latest headline that Shea has garnered. Last year, he was removed from Republican leadership positions after a “manifesto” he authored was published online. He says that document was a Bible study on the biblical basis for war.

Critics, such as Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich say otherwise. The sheriff argues that he’s seen the rhetoric before and that the document is an echo of white supremacist groups in the area such as Christian Identity and the Aryan Nations.

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Shea counters such criticism, saying that he is not a racist. He points out that he has been criticized for attending a God and Country celebration in Marble, Washington, which some say is a collection of White Nationalist, according to Shea.

“What they have failed to publish time after time is that one of the associate pastors up there, a good friend of mine, is black,” Shea said. “They also fail to mention time after time that a reverend who grew up in downtown Chicago … also a black reverend, lives there in Marble, Washington. In addition to that, they don’t mention that I do ministry work all over the world, including in Ethiopia where I was in November.”

Shea argues that the left takes facts out of context to smear him — to say he is a racist and an anti-Semite.

“I was the one for the Republican Caucus that introduced a resolution honoring Israel’s 70th anniversary as a nation, and it was the Democrat speaker of the House here in Olympia that refused to bring it up as a House resolution and we had to run it as a caucus resolution when the Israeli consulate general, another friend of mine, came here to Olympia,” he said.

Shea says he also has introduced bills to prevent participation in movements to divest in Israel. It’s his success as a Conservative  lawmaker that draws such smear attacks, he says.

“I think you see very clearly an attempt to silence effective Republicans, not just me, around the country,” Shea said. “And you are seeing it happen to President Trump, too, where he is undermined at every step.”

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