Sen. Jason Rapert’s threatening social media rant over being asked a political question by a constituent has drawn attention from local TV stations, with both Channel 4 and Channel 7 giving Rapert a chance to explain himself.
Remarkable stuff. Channel 4 brought in a political lobbyist, Bill Vickery, who used Rapert to pass a bill for Uber trumping the taxi industry. Surprise. Vickery says Rapert was justified in threatening a questioner.
Channel 7 had Rapert on for an extensive interview. Let me boil it down.
* After telling me and the world over the weekend that constituent Lance White, who complained on Facebook of brusque treatment by Rapert at a Lowe’s parking lot in Conway, had not prompted the threatening tweet, he essentially confirmed that it WAS White who had set him off. He said his Facebook post about being “harassed” in a parking lot and being armed and ready to shoot was directed at someone who asked a question about how he’d feel about being refused service by a Muslim in a driver’s license office.
“He said ‘if your wife was at a DMV getting a license and a Muslim refused to give her a license, would you be okay with that?’ And I said ‘probably about as okay as I am with you walking up to me in the parking lot and getting smart with me’,” said Rapert.
This is entirely too similar to what White reports he said at roughly the same time to not be the same person But note a little word that ol’ Jason just happened to drop into his account. White recounted to me his encounter:
I asked, if I were working at a DMV, and due to my religious belief, I refused to sell a drivers license to a female, would he support such a behavior. I never mentioned a specific religion.
Sounds like Rapert whistled the old Muslim dog, always good for mileage in his district. And if this wasn’t White, did TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE give Rapert a hypothetical at Lowe’s about the DMV? What do you think?
* Rapert won’t tolerate people who hold different beliefs. He made much of the fact that his questioner supported same-sex marriage, a position that made him unworthy of conversation apparently. He personally vilified White — though he was not the person who threatened him, he told us several times — for his politics over the weekend, too. As if that justified his rude and threatening behavior.
* He said he didn’t regret his intemperate post but said he’d taken it down because, as 7 put it, a “local news publication” (that would be the Arkansas Blog) had used it “improperly.” What he meant to say, as he has said in previous episodes: “No fair. You quoted me. And proved I’d said it by running a picture of my Twitter account.”
Rapert repeated his frequent complaint that he fears injury in public because of multiple threats. The State Police told me it had indeed looked into multiple complaints of threats by Rapert. Spokesman Bill Sadler said it had found none to be “credible threats” of imminent harm and had no open investigations. I’ll have the documents on the complaints in hand soon, thanks to the FOI Act. I predict the threats will amount to complaints about social media comments and questions Rapert doesn’t want to answer.
For somebody that boasts so readily of all the firepower he keeps around his house, Rapert sure sounds like a fraidycat. Complaints have been given to authorities today by people offended by Rapert’s threatening Tweet. They think such a comment by a concealed carry permit holder to what even Rapert now admits was no more than a political question, strikes many as a violation of terms of concealed carry permits. I don’t like the odds of either a) the State Police jerking Rapert’s license or b) Rapert changing his ways. But he’ll at least have to answer questions from somebody in a position of authority about it.
PS – It would be ungenerous of me not to thank Rapert for the immense exposure and dramatic jump in readership his tirades provide for us on Twitter, Facebook and the Arkansas Blog.
PPS UPDATE — The State Police file is interesting. An enormous amount of staff time has been invested over several years into complaints that tended to be — as one trooper said — “inflammatory but protected speech.” Some of the comments are ugly. One message, believed to have arisen from a foreign source, copy pasted text from an NBC story about the slaying of a Yugoslavian family and closed with a wish it would happen to Rapert’s family. An extensive investigation never could pin down a source, but investigators surmised it came from abroad from someone who spoke poor English, or wasn’t very smart. A behavioral expert concluded it wasn’t a real threat. Another incident Rapert complained about came from a caller who said he hoped Rapert would get his ass kicked “by the Constitution.” Again, not exactly threatening. Police did respond more urgently to a Facebook comment that “this man should be shot” in reference to his politics, but it came from a federal prisoner. Iowa State Police investigated the sender of one note, who’d never been to Arkansas and had no plans to do so. The State Police provided added patrols at one point, but scaled them back when no solid leads developed. Rapert pressed for prosecution of all responsible for threats, but none developed. He also reported receiving phone calls with people cursing and slurring words. He received some profane comments, including from a Jonesboro man who said, when Rapert complained that he was threatening, that he was engaging in protected political speech.
Rapert objected early this month when a comment from a “Joe Blow” was just added to the file because of a line about gunning people down. The comment seemed over the line, Rapert wrote the State Police. The comment:
Jason, your Facebook page is b.s. And we don’t need forded f***ing Jesus. The day that happens is the day everyone will use their Second Amendment rights and gun down every goddamn spiritual rapist
Rapert also reported, after being tipped by Rep. Bob Ballinger’s wife, that commenters on an Arkansas Blog item were trying to figure out where he lives. He added, ‘The Arkansas Times has fabricated several articles about me and tries to incite people to say awful things on a regular basis.”
Like tonight. He still insists his threat wasn’t about Lance White. He still won’t say who. I still don’t believe him.