It’s been a long 2023.
Let’s hope this selection pairs with a more just and peaceful 2024.
It’s been a long 2023.
Let’s hope this selection pairs with a more just and peaceful 2024.
Recently Great Falls Republican Senator Jeremy Trebas was challenged by the Montana Jewish Project, the Montana Human Rights Network and WTF 406 for sharing an antisemitic post on his Twitter feed. Trebas has so far declined requests to apologize but did take the offending post down. Please see related WTF406 post for more information: https://wtf406.com/2023/12/trebas-fails-to-apologize-for-anti-semitic-tweet/
Antisemitism is on the rise nationally and here in Montana. Unfortunately, the rise of the current right wing and the intrusion of conspiracy-driven political activists has brought antisemitism out of the back rooms and increasingly into the political mainstream. Donald Trump leads the way with repeated comments which trade in antisemitic tropes, from wealthy Jews (George Soros) to accusing “liberal Jews” of voting to destroy America and Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which tracks antisemitic incidents reports that in 2022, there were 3,697 antisemitic incidents across the United States. This represents a 36% increase from the 2,717 incidents recorded in 2021 and is the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
In the last session of the legislature, Rabbi Ed Stafman’s scheduled prayer opening the day’s legislative session was canceled at the last minute without explanation by Republican House leader Matt Regier. Stafman, who is also a legislator, was replaced by a Christian delivering a Christian prayer. Stafman said from the house floor that he felt he had been “shut down,” because “I’m not a Christian or delivering a Christian prayer.” He would not lead a prayer, it turned out, for the rest of the session. https://forward.com/news/547677/montana-lawmaker-rabbi-invocation-prayer-legislature-ed-stafman-legislature-house/
House Speaker Matt Regier refused to respond to numerous questions about canceling Stafman’s invocation. Several weeks later, Regier published an editorial about the incident explaining why the action was not antisemitic . The focus of Regier’s response pointed to several bills which were pro-Israel. For the record, many Jews do not support Israel’s policy in a number of areas, such as Netanyahu’s effort to “restructure” Israel’s court system and, of course, Israel’s bombing in Gaza. But the conflation of Israel’s political stances and the interests of Jews worldwide is a staple of American right-wing politics.
Most Christian Evangelicals strongly support Israel, because their “end times” theology requires that Israel’s political boundaries be reestablished to what God promised the Israelites according to the Bible,” Polling shows that 80% of Evangelicals believe that the creation of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy that would bring about Christ’s return. If you have wondered why so many Evangelicals support the sinner in chief, Donald Trump, it is the same belief that he is fulfilling biblical prophecy. It is no surprise that Regier ended his editorial explaining why he is not antisemitic by saying, “May God continue to bless Israel and may God bless the United States of America.” A Jewish man at a community meeting in Hamilton put it succinctly, “Republicans love Israel. They just don’t like Jews”.
Back in February we wrote about our concern that newly elected Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant was hiring election denier political cronies who knew little about administering free elections. Those concerns were prompted by Merchant’s first hire, Devereaux Biddick, who apparently had little relevant experience or related education. Biddick was among the signers of a petition presenting a list of demands to the Cascade County Commissioners, which included requiring all voters in the county to “re-register,” banning all electronic voting, banning mail in ballots, and requiring all ballots be counted in one day. It was hard for us to imagine then, and now, that people who advocated these changes, most of which are either impractical or illegal, could be considered qualified to hold positions in the elections office.
We were also concerned that hiring Biddick was a precursor to more crony hiring. Since that time, two family members of Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci have been hired, along with others who had signed the denier petition. The below is from our article back in February.
“Is This Just the Beginning?
The fact is that recently elected County Commissioner Grulkowski and Clerk and Recorder Merchant, who have worked extensively together on their election denier mythology prior to being elected, have now offered a full-time permanent position to a friend of theirs who worked on the same effort. Biddick could be just the beginning of Sandra Merchant’s opportunities to move her cronies from the election denier crowd into government jobs at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The election supervisor job will be open thanks to Deroche’s resignation. In addition, the office has traditionally hired additional temporary employees to help during the election cycle.”
We began this article by pointing out that this kind of cronyism is illegal. Specifically, the Governmental Code of Fair Practices prohibits discrimination in government employment based on political beliefs. If any of the unsuccessful applicants for the position decided to file a complaint under that law and won, we would all get to pay for the insider dealing of our newly elected county officials. We’ll stay tuned and keep watching.”
Now, Biddick is being hired to run the elections office on a temporary basis while the County Commission is developing a position description and opening the position. She will also receive a 15% raise. We can see the need to have someone filling the position, but we can only hope that this time around the county will have an open and transparent process for filling the new election administrator position. See our full story from last February https://wtf406.com/2023/02/clerk-and-recorder-staff-changes-is-new-hire-a-political-crony/
Trebas Spreads Anti-Semitic Lies
Earlier this week, Great Falls Senator Jeremy Trebas retweeted a horribly offensive Anti-Semitic tweet. We’ve included the tweet at the end of the article, but we ask that you don’t share it on your socials. (Why? Because we don’t want to further spread these harmful and inaccurate tropes about Jewish people. After discussion we decided it was important for folks to actually see what Trebas shared. People need to see that this ugliness really exists, and that Senator Trebas is actively contributing to it.)
If you aren’t familiar with the many forms of anti-semitism, that particular tweet is based on “blood libel.” Blood libel is the entirely FALSE allegation that Jewish people use the blood of children for ritual purposes. No, seriously. This disgusting lie has been used for centuries to persecute – and justify the MURDER of- Jewish people.
Trebas’s disgusting retweet resulted in him being called out by the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Jewish Project, and the Anti Defamation League You can read all of those responses here:
When the Montana Jewish Project voiced their concerns regarding Trebas’ retweet, his first response was to publicly argue with them. Apparently Trebas felt he was owed a personal phone call rather than a public call out. To be clear, he wasn’t owed this. No one should have to tell a state senator that it’s not okay to spread lies that Jewish people use the blood of children in rituals. I mean, even typing that sentence is wild, right? Regardless, Trebas’ first instinct was to act like he himself was the wronged party. Unfortunately for ol’ Jeremy, the Montana Jewish Project had attempted to contact him first. Seemingly, Trebas had not checked his messages from his legislative accounts. Although the Montana Jewish Project now reports they had a productive phone call with Trebas, an apology is still nowhere in sight.
Trebas’ History of Bigotry
Over the past year, Great Falls has been inundated with Neo Nazi activity. We’ve seen our Black, Jewish, and LGBTQ+ neighbors targeted by hate literature and our downtown littered with nazi propaganda. Some local Republicans have taken an actual stance, condemning this activity and even helping us clean it up. Then there’s Senator Trebas and his ilk. Rather than fighting this flurry of hate, Trebas instead contributes to it.
We’ve already written about Trebas’ extreme anti-lgbtq views, and his disgusting behavior towards Rep. Zooey Zephyr. You can read about that here: https://wtf406.com/2023/04/transphobic-trebas-hateful-twitter-rant-reported-by-nbc/
We even contacted the Great Falls Rescue Mission, where Trebas serves as Director of Operations. (Their lackluster response made it clear they aren’t taking any measures to protect the unhoused from Trebas’ bigotry.) So, here we are again. Senator Trebas is using his public platform to spread hate, and this time it’s towards the Jewish community.
Where’s The Apology?
Trebas did indeed remove his offensive retweet, which is a positive step. It’s also the bare minimum and doesn’t take any real accountability for the damage he’s already done. He didn’t say “Hey guys, sorry I spread horrible, harmful, completely libelous things about the entire Jewish community.” He didn’t acknowledge the impact this has on Great Falls, or the very real ways rhetoric like this results in violence. He didn’t even accept responsibility. Instead, he’s seemingly trying to sweep this bad behavior under the rug because he’s been called out by more than just the Left this time.
Forgive us if we don’t feel hitting “delete” rights the wrong he has done here. There’s no place for Anti-Semitism in Great Falls, and least of all from those who are elected to represent us.
So, we’ll go ahead and ask for it formally now.
Senator Trebas, when can Great Falls expect your public apology?
By Pamela Carroll
On Tuesday, December 12, 2023, the Grinch revealed itself in Great Falls, Montana. I saw the mean-spirited character manifested in citizens of Cascade County.
Cascade County Commission held their bimonthly meeting at the Expo Park in anticipation of large public attendance. Commissioner Joe Brigg brought forth a resolution to remove election duties from the Clerk and Recorder. This resolution has been talked about for several years.
Public comments were heard from over one hundred people. With many more in attendance to witness the spectacle of vile and spiteful testimony. This went on for seven long and excruciating hours.
As I sat in the audience listening to the public comments, I was so ashamed of the behavior of those speaking in opposition to the resolution. These are my neighbors who used threats, yelled, and told outright lies. The Bible quotes were thrown out over and over to attack commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson. Two pastors in our community spewed hateful words. Not once did I hear these so-called church attending people speak to the call to love thy neighbor as thyself. It was like watching school yard bullies and toddler temper tantrums. Never in the 62 years that I have lived in Great Falls have I ever experienced anything like the hateful actions and words that I saw that day. I fought back tears of sadness that day for my community.
The restraint shown by Commissioners Joe Briggs, Jim Larson and those that spoke in support of the resolution is to be commended. Supporters spoke with decorum and integrity while expressing their concerns for the election process that has been flawed since Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant has taken office. They stuck to the facts and kept religion and emotion out of their testimony.
We are in need of change in Great Falls and around Montana as this type of extremist behavior spreads and basic community norms around public discussion and debate dissolve. Perhaps, the most disturbing aspect is the appeal to theocratic ideals which could not be more un-American. This country was founded on a fundamental separation between church and state, and we have upheld that value, embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution, for almost 250 years. The opponents’ dogmatic appeal to a narrow-minded, intolerant brand of Christianity would be ridiculous if it were not so fundamentally dangerous and unconstitutional.
There is hard work ahead for all reasonable people of goodwill in this community and across Montana to try to bring us back to a semblance of decency and behavioral norms of civility and respect necessary for the community to not only survive but thrive. “Love thy Neighbor no Exception.”