Lewis and Clark County's elected justice of the peace acknowledged that he sent an "inappropriate" email chastising a Washington Post reporter for coverage that was critical of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.
"Whether Q is real or otherwise, there is a movement started by the hypothesis of a Q and somebody behind the scenes standing up for the average American citizen," Judge Michael Swingley wrote in an email Wednesday from his official government account to reporter Avi Selk. "Patriots are uniting against people just like you. Your world of fake news and liberal agendas that give away our country to foreigners and protect the Clintons and Obamas is coming to an end. Wait for it........... you pathetic, snobby ass."
In a written statement provided to the Independent Record Friday, Swingley said "I fully admit that my decision to utilize my work email was inappropriate and was not the best decision, professionally or personally. Frustrated, and overwhelmed I lashed out at a reporter who, once again wants to focus on the symptom of a problem, and not admit it is time to fix our differences."
According to The New York Times, "Q" is an online character who claims to be a government insider working to expose bureaucrats plotting against President Donald Trump's administration and supporters. CBS News reports that many followers of QAnon believe a "deep state" took over the government decades ago and have been involved in everything from the assassination of JFK to the rise of ISIS.
"Many Q fans believe that President Kennedy was set to reveal the existence of the secret government when he was assassinated," CBS News reported. "They also believe President Reagan was shot on the deep state's orders, and that all the presidents since he left office -- with the exception of Mr. Trump -- have been deep state agents."
Selk, who tweeted an image of Swingley's email, was not able to comment publicly but provided links to two pieces he has written about QAnon for The Washington Post: An Aug. 1 article co-written by another Washington Post reporter and an Aug. 5 piece labeled as analysis.
The first article discusses the origins of the QAnon movement and how it quickly spread online. Selk's analysis examined several individual theories being peddled by supporters, poking fun at the "meticulous research and robust body of evidence believers say supports all of QAnon."
In his statement, Swingley said he believes Q is nothing more than an "internet based illusion" but was upset with Selk for focusing on the internet movement "and not realizing that it is a symptom of real issues."
"(Selk's) position seemed to be anyone who speaks up for anything, must be a conspiracy seeking, nut ball," Swingley said. "My point was, and is that people have had enough. People are beginning to stand up and ask for change and are grabbing on to a Q, Antifa, or any other group that they feel gets their message across."
Swingley said he has received many positive emails in response to his letter to Selk, along with "several threats, plus emails from people claiming to be Q and everything in between."
Justice Court is responsible for processing all misdemeanor offenses in the county, including traffic, criminal and animal control violations.
Swingley asked the Independent Record to publish his full written statement, which reads as follows:
"First, I stumbled upon the article and it made me angry and frustrated, once again a reporter wanted to focus on an internet movement that is more than likely a hacker and not realizing that it is a symptom of real issues. But I felt once again that nobody in Washington or at any level of government or the press is listening to the average, hardworking, American or is willing to deal with the issues that are affecting our country. In a moment of frustration, I sent him the response. I am human and I occasionally do things that aren’t perfect.
Second. By fake news, I mean the constant barrage of articles reporting what the latest Bridezilla did to her bridesmaid, and not the real issues that I see every single day in our own town. Our press is no longer free, controlled by big business, special interest and two parties that fight daily in print, always to sway the rest of us for their own agendas. Our country is in the middle of a very difficult time, a division that is serious and not going to end anytime soon. We have more domestic issues than we can admit to or deal with. Our drug problem, meth, heroin and opiods is killing our citizens, our children and is at the root or a significant portion of our jobless, homeless and mentally ill rates and crime. Our southern border is the source of nearly all of the meth and heroin coming into our country, all the way to Helena, Montana.
I am not for a wall. But I am in favor of fixing the border so that criminals and drug dealers are stopped, while others are able to come here to enjoy a new life. We continually send our young to wars over oil and ground we don’t want. We feed other countries while our own children starve. I see daily the justice and corrections systems that are broken. Our child protective system is broken. Our jails and prisons, in Montana also, are full of those who are drug and alcohol addicted, that need the treatment that isn’t available. Mental illness is the norm in the prison and jail system, no resources to deal with it are available. Simply storing these people in a cage for a while and letting them out doesn’t work. I have had it with the status quo of government and politicians waging a war amongst themselves while the average person suffers. Hospitals charge $7 for a Tylenol and we wonder why nobody can afford health insurance. We send billions of dollars to other countries in aide, when the elderly woman down the street can’t pay her heat bill or buy medications.
I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I do not believe that Q is anything more than an internet based illusion, but my point with the reporter is that whether Q is real or not, it could be A, B or C,the name and movement is a sign and symptom of a bigger issue. His position seemed to be anyone who speaks up for anything, must be a conspiracy seeking, nut ball. My point was, and is that people, have had enough. People are beginning to stand up and ask for change and are grabbing on to a Q, Antifa, or any other group that they feel gets their message across. As for patriots standing up, I stand up for the average citizen every single day. At my own physical and emotional expense. I do everything possible to work within the broken system and I see no change on the horizon at the local, state or national level.
I fully admit that my decision to utilize my work email was inappropriate and was not the best decision, professionally or personally. Frustrated, and overwhelmed I lashed out at a reporter who, once again wants to focus on the symptom of a problem, and not admit it is time to fix our differences. I do my best to represent the judiciary and Lewis and Clark County properly. If the people want perfection, I can’t deliver that and you have elected the wrong person. I can only do the best I can and make the best, fair decisions with the thousands of cases I have yearly. I am passionate about my position and seek only to help those who are victims, and even the convicted, who need to be restored. I live in a town that is not the one I grew up in. A country that is so divided, it doesn’t matter who is in the White House, or Congress. Nothing changes and as soon as I or anyone stands up, we are branded, a racist, a liberal, a whacko conservative, the name calling changes nothing. We have lost touch with who we are.
Yes, I am guilty of writing the email, it was snarky, poorly written and I should have read it five times before hitting send. I won’t deny it and have offered an explanation of my thoughts at the time. My grandfather used to say “never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.” Sage advice that in this instance, I probably should have followed."