The PR pros say there’s “no such thing as bad publicity,” but there is such a thing as divisive, counterproductive, even dangerous political speech. And as campaigns increasingly compete in cyberspace — where outrage is the currency of the realm — candidates are often all too willing to buy attention at the cost of civility, or even basic human decency.  

Elected officials, of course, hold no monopoly on shameful social media behavior, but I believe they should be held to a higher standard than the general public.    

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) sparked national debate recently when he tweeted anime videos depicting assaults on President Joe Biden and a Democratic lawmaker. But he was hardly the first politician to blow past the line. In fact, his toxic tweets were preceded by three recent examples in Wyoming politics.

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne), who is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in next year’s GOP primary, is a central figure in all three incidents.

In September, Bouchard created a meme for his campaign’s Facebook page that depicted a noose with a superimposed image of White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci. “After prosecution, the chair, the gallows, or lethal injection?” the candidate asked.

There was no need to even pose the question, since Bouchard set himself up as the judge, jury and executioner. Fauci has been a favorite target of Bouchard’s since the outset of the pandemic.

Joe Barbuto, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party, issued a sharp rebuke of Bouchard’s “willingness to lower the political discourse to such despicable and dangerous depths.” He called for legislative leaders to condemn Bouchard’s meme. They didn’t.

Bouchard countered that Democrats did the same thing to former President Donald Trump. “If that’s the way it’s going to be, that only [Democrats] can say it, but if somebody else does it’s a problem … oh boy that’s scary,” he told WyoFile.

To be sure, many people have blistered Trump on social media since he became a candidate. But Bouchard misses the point. He’s not only an elected official, he’s also seeking a seat in Congress. 

And while he defended his handiwork, the senator removed it from his Facebook page. 

Bouchard’s gaffe didn’t dissuade State Sen. Troy McKeown (R-Gillette) from posting a meme of soldiers from a war long ago charging over a trench. “When life gives you lemons FIX BAYONETS!” it read.

McKeown’s rambling explanation accompanying the post referred to a Laramie High School student’s arrest for trespassing after she violated a mask mandate. It also included a clear threat.

“So one of our school districts arrest a student for violating their unconstitutional mandates and the senate refuses to hear a bill to reduce their authority but passes a gambling bill you know where their priorities are,” he wrote. “We will not lay down. In fact, some defended the school boards … the conservatives will no longer be bullied by the powers that be. Remember it’s the 3rd rib.”

Wyoming Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) speaks to protestors after a meeting of the Joint Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services in Casper on Sept. 16, 2021. (Nick Reynolds/WyoFile)

Bouchard quickly reposted his colleague’s work, and added on his own page, “Deep in the third rib.”

I never thought I’d be searching about “bayonets” on Google, but I learned that the reference is related to one of the most effective ways to kill someone using a knife. A website advised, “Going between the second and third, or third and fourth ribs will most likely give a direct hit to the liver. Wounds to the liver are fatal if not immediately treated.”

McKeown told the Gillette News Record that it was a “figurative post” born of frustration with his legislative colleagues during the special session called to counter federal vaccine mandates. “I’m not trying to incite violence,” he said.

This time, a biting response came from a fellow Republican, former House Speaker Tom Lubnau of Gillette. “What did that mean, if it didn’t mean exactly what it meant?” he asked. “That’s not a funny comment, that’s not a tongue-in-cheek comment, that’s not a sarcastic comment.”

Bouchard rarely adheres to the unwritten rule not to criticize members of your own party. In fact, intra-party name calling has become his stock and trade. He recently called one GOP senator a “swamp monster” and “flat-out liar,” while tagging another as a “slime ball.”

But while McKeown kept his bayonet post up, Bouchard meekly took his response down. He’s a bully, so I don’t give him credit for making the right decision. Bouchard likely just didn’t want to share the heat with his buddy.

Several Republican legislators, including Bouchard, played rancid roles in another controversy. Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne), chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided when Bouchard’s bill to prohibit federal vaccine mandates was killed in March.

Troy Bray, a Park County Republican official, sent a scathing email to Nethercott. “If I were as despicable as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself,” he wrote. “Thank you for ensuring that the people of Wyoming are subjected to tyranny once again.”

He profanely signed off, “F*** YOU C***.”

Nethercott didn’t take the bait. “Please continue to reach out with questions or comments, we do appreciate hearing from you,” she responded. But other senators learned about the exchange and were outraged.

Even if he was upset about his bill, Bouchard should have condemned Bray’s intolerable action. Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) and House Speaker Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) did, calling out Bray’s “violent and threatening statements.”

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson blasted Bray for “one of the coarsest, foulest, ignorant, dumb-witted things that has ever been sent to a chairman of the Judiciary Committee.”

Bouchard’s classless comment? He piled on, calling Nethercott “an absolute Tyrant. … I’m tired of being told to be nice to Liars and Tyrants,” he wrote on Facebook. Bray gave it a thumbs up.

What is wrong with these people? Why are they taking civil political discourse and blowing it to smithereens?

It’s because they expect to get away with it. They could care less if party leaders chastise them. In Bouchard’s case, he revels in it. If he stays in the congressional race, expect more of the same — and probably worse.

How the U.S. House deals with Gosar — whose family has deep Wyoming roots — will show whether the chamber Bouchard aspires to join will put up with direct threats to other officials.

Gosar’s doctored anime tweet showed him swinging two swords at Biden and killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). He also posted real video footage of migrants crossing the Rio Grande, with animated blood splatters covering their bodies.

Democrats screamed foul, but said it’s what they expect from someone who has been linked to white supremacists. Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, told people that “everyone needs to relax.”

Democrats have moved to censure Gosar. Since they’re in control I suspect the endeavor will succeed, but it’s not enough. Anyone else in the country who threatened the president and a co-worker with violence would be in handcuffs. Gosar should be removed from Congress.

Bouchard’s conduct hasn’t received the same national attention (much to his chagrin), but it’s still disturbing. For the record, I haven’t been spared his barbs. On Facebook he’s nicknamed me “Drake the Snake.”

Considering the good company that puts me in with the other objects of his bullying, I consider it a badge of honor.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. The sad fact is that the Wyoming Legislature has ceased to be an effective functioning governmental body. Just nonstop millions of dollars of revenues totally wasted.

  2. Democrats can kill people, burn businesses, bash police cars, and loot stores. That’s OK. Democrat politicians can tell constituents to “form a crowd” around Republican politicians, and threaten to “take them out”. But don’t you dare make a dumb cartoon that is darn near impossible to follow. If you aren’t in their gang.
    I get that.
    What percentage of actual violence is committed by Democrats? The media won’t ask that question. There are 500 National Guard troops in Kenosha today. They aren’t worried about Republicans. The fact is that if Democrats didn’t have guns life would be peaceful in major cities. Children die every day because they do.
    Democrat politicians see disarming Republicans of their Free Speech and their Firearms as their primary goal. Why? Because only Democrats should have any power to sway opinion or use force. We have seen this before. Dictatorships suck.
    I agree that the cartoon was stupid and that Republicans should adhere to higher standards, which is easy since Democrats don’t have any.
    But, as usual, Democrats have no capacity to understand the big picture. They see themselves as the light in the darkness. In my opinion they are more like Teutonic Knights of the 4th Reich and beyond any criticism because violence would ensue.
    Thank goodness that many people in Wyoming read books and know that the TV and the internet are not reputable sources. Propaganda is like hypnotism, in that you have to be willing subjects. We are not willing, and we will not be victims of this tyranny.

    1. Oh please! Democrats with guns threatening you? Show me one! The only guns I see are far right wing idjits I see who think they are fashion statements! Take your damn weapons home and stay there–you are a menace to those of us who simply want get on with life!

  3. In his refutation of Nancy Pelosi’s opening statements for the reasons for censuring Rep. Gosar, House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy used the phrase “rules for thee, but not for me” several times. His purpose was to point out what he felt was the democrats’ hypocrisy for holding Gosar accountable for his violent portrayal of killing AO-C and attempted murder of President Biden.
    Recently, the Republican party in Wyoming voted to declare Rep. Cheney not a member in good standing of their party due to her vote to impeach Benedict Donald (among other acts of independence). When I hear “rules for thee, but not for me”, spoken by the House Minority leader, McCarthy, I wonder why he couldn’t tell Bouchard to give Liz as much leeway as he has Gosar?

  4. Thanks, Kerry Drake. I support your views in this column. This behavior and vocabulary, in Wyoming politics, is disgusting and drives people away from participating in government – young people tell me every day they “aren’t interested, don’t watch the news, not interested in politics.”

  5. Thank you Kerry for this thought provoking article. In reading through the comments of other readers it is clear Wyoming is a diverse and, dare I say, interesting place to be. What I miss most about Casper’s current newspaper are the letters to the editor. When you were opinion editor we got some really interesting ones; however, they were clean ,clear, and respectful, as well as being biting and “in your face.” Keep up the good work.

  6. Thank you Mr. Drake for shining light on these outrageous attacks. Those in power need to curb their nastiness and realize it WILL spur some of their believers to violence, much like what happened when the former president invited his followers, or should I say worshippers, to viciously attack our own government. This is not leadership, this is bullying and especially disgusting when women and minorities are the targets.

  7. This whole column seems to have been formulated because the columnist was “blistered” by the object of his own “outrage”. Can’t take it seriously, like a weekly comic strip.

  8. Extremists on both sides are to blame. Does anyone remember the Left’s outrage when Kathy Griffith depicted herself holding President Trumps severed head? Madonna’s speech about “blowing up the White House”?, Johnny Depp’s “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” Were these people prosecuted? Were they censored or banned? Criticized? No! They were idolized by the Left and the corporate media machine.

    The division in this country is fueled by the media. If the media were truly concerned about the growing political anger and division that is present during these times, they wouldn’t feed it.

    1. I must agree. My opinion is the same. Were it not for the rabid political stupidity that has overtaken public discourse over the past 6 years, these people would not be so obviously reckless. As our parents always told us, just because Johnny did it does not give you an excuse. Imagine if Republicans had staged the theatrical assassination of President Obama in Central Park 10 years ago. Never would have happened. But for leftists thugs to stage a theatrical killing of Trump was just hunky dory. That, along with your examples and along with the oafish late night buffoons and the MacBeth Witches on The View, moved the Overton Window. Forever adolescents on the left can never be introspective and admit that they changed politics with their riots and their false accusations and their endless ranting and conniving. That is just too much honesty for them. Instead they perch in committees on the branches of dead trees waiting for a Republican to cross the well trodden lines they buried under foot years ago. Once a dumb move is made, and these were dumb moves, they swoop in and go for the jugular. This is the environment in which we live. They have made everything political and they have made everything political their hunting ground. Republicans are the only ones capable of being the adults in the room, and they have to do better. The media is the press wing of the DNC and will never be honest or fair. Hollywood and academia are simply a branch of the media now. It is one big club, as George Carlin said, and You ain’t in it.

    2. Big difference between Griffen, Madonna, Depp, and Bouchard. Bouchard is an elected politician that is running for office. Cutting to the heart of present day decline of civility, a large percentage of right leaning citizens were enthusiastic supporters of twice impeached loser, ex president we don’t mention by name. His idiocy in front of his supporters turned them on like a bunch of drug addled teens at a rap concert. Their pent up anger and hatred of progressives found him as a heroic figure. Funny how a reality show host with a total lack of class became the idol we are admonished to not worship in the Bible.

    3. There is a little bit of a difference between an actor doing something like that and a politician saying the things that are being said. That is the problem with the people on the right. They are led but actors and can’t separate reality from fiction.

    4. You don’t seem to understand the difference. Kathy Griffin and Johnny Depp are in show business, and they were not idolized by the left and the media. Bouchard and others referenced in this piece are government officials.

    5. Drake points out rightly that ” outrage is the currency of the realm ” on social media. The conservative commentors here demonstrate that Cognitive Dissonance is the wallet those $ 3.00 bills are dispensed from.

  9. Maybe you missed Bouchard’s cute little video about being “pure blooded” on Twitter. (It’s no longer there and I’m not sure if he took it down, or if Twitter did.)
    But today’s republican party has chosen to openly adopt racism, lies, conspiracies, violence, and tyranny into their official party platform. Increasingly, anyone who dips even a toe out of line, even when the line is completely beyond the pale, is no longer merely branded a “RINO” in due course. They’re branded an evil atrocity and a traitor who ought to be promptly rounded up and executed. It’s extremely toxic and dangerous and needs to stop.

    1. You speak truth. The new age republicans and chrump nuthuggers are abject failures in civil and rational discourse. I look forward to the usual subjects trying to discredit what you posted while proving what you posted at the same time.

      Cheers

  10. There is absolutely no need of electing Tony Bouchard to Congress or even reaffirm him to the state legislature. As we speak, Bouchard is already delivering the greatest highest amount of public service he will ever put forth in his alotted time on Earth. We would be remiss to discharge him while he is at the apex of his vocational career arc.

    Bouchard’s day job is that of a septic tank pumper.
    Yup. It’s his duty to personally discharge the sacred vessels. Life as we know it in mostly rural Wyoming would brake to a halt without the skilled interdictions of the likes of Bouchard.

    He belongs right where he’s at. In fact, if Bouchard were truly selfless and altruistic in wanting to serve the People of Wyoming, he would voluntarily step down from the legislature to devote even more time to the real world work of septic tank pumping. The need is ever expanding. Many would say it is a totally thankless job , but Anthony Bouchard has all my available gratitude for doing it…

    Carry on.

  11. Thank you. I agree. Anyone else who threatens the President would be arrested. There is a case in courts now where a woman was sentenced to 5 years for such a threat. Why is no one calling Gosar out? It is criminal.
    Bouchard is just an idiot. He thinks if he mimics Trump he will get elected. Ugh!

    1. Gosar is an absolute stain on the political scene. If he lived in Wyoming, the chrump lemmings would think he was the second coming. His white nationalist leanings would be applauded by a good portion of chrump’s brain dead followers here in the State. I’m sure a “brawndo” distribution center would follow shortly after.