A vulgar email sent to Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne) from a Park County Republican committeeman has been condemned and its author chastised by numerous members of the party.
In many ways the reaction from people wasn’t just about the letter itself, but the current passionate, divisive political culture in America.
In his email sent on Sept. 12, Powell resident Troy Bray, angry about a vote Nethercott had made in March, resorted to a hateful attack to get his point across.
“If I were as despicable a person as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself,” Bray wrote. “You sicken me. Thank you for ensuring that the people of Wyoming are subjected to tyranny once again. F--- you c----.”
Although the email was sent from a personal address, Bray included his committeeman title in his signature. The email was forwarded to the Cody Enterprise.
Nethercott did not respond to requests for comment.
In a Tuesday Facebook post, Bray said he apologized to Nethercott for the language he used in the email. Although he has resigned from his position as secretary of the Park County Republican Men's Club after asked to, Bray said he will not resign his Republican Party committeeman position.
"I have also received a bit of pressure from the leftists/RINO class of scum," Bray said. "Senator Tara Nethercott, the language I used was inappropriate, and I apologize for the last word of my e-mail. But the cowardice and pettiness being shown by you and your supporters proves every other word of my e-mail. I will not be bullied, nor will I allow bullies to win."
In his Facebook post, Bray says on three different times his apology is only limited to the words he "concluded" his message by. Therefore, Bray made it clear he is not apologizing for telling the senator to kill herself.
Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) and two other Wyoming State Legislatures "liked" Bray's Facebook post.
The bill Bray referred to, Senate File 94, was an anti-vaccine legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Tim French (R-Powell) that died in the Judiciary Committee, with Nethercott voting against it. This legislation would have had no effect on President Joe Biden’s current vaccine mandates and would have only applied to state-level orders.
“We as state legislators can only change state laws, not federal laws,” Nethercott wrote in her response to Bray, never making mention of the vulgarities he used. “As much as we state legislators would like to tell the federal government what to do, we are limited in our capacity to do this.”
Sen. R.J. Kost (R-Powell) also voted against the bill but, unlike the lawmaker from 414 miles away, received no message from Bray, despite being his elected senator.
“It was demeaning,” Kost said of Bray’s letter. “To say that you ought to think about your life. That’s just bad.”
He said he wasn’t against the bill as a whole but didn’t find the verbiage ready for passing at the time of the vote.
On Wednesday morning Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader and Speaker Eric Barlow issued a statement condemning Bray's letter and urged the Wyoming and Park Republican Party to demand his resignation as committeeman. The lawmakers said they would work with the party to make sure there are statutory measures to remove an elected official for egregious behavior in the future.
"Such a unified response will be a clear signal to all that Mr. Bray's bullying and intimidation have no place in Wyoming," the letter said.
In a Wednesday afternoon press release written by president Martin Kimmet, the Park County Republican Party spoke out against Bray's language and the opinions expressed in his email, saying his words are not reflective of the party. In that release, it was also acknowledged there are no statutes on the books for removing an elected person.
"We welcome efforts by the Wyoming Legislature to provide a statutory and constitutional process to remove an elected person from their position," Kimmet said in the release. "We believe in constructive dialog with our elected persons. However, we believe such dialogue should be respectful."
No where in the release did it say Bray was asked to step down, but it was said the matter will be discussed during an executive session of the party's next meeting on Oct. 7.
When it comes to removing elected people, there has been similar chatter at party meetings about attempting to remove U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.
Bob Berry, treasurer of the Park County Republican Men’s Club, said that Bray resigned from his position as secretary of the group, but only did so when asked to. Martin Kimmet, president of the Park County Republican Party, said he had conversations with Bray and Nethercott about the matter.
The Republican Men’s Club sent an apology letter to Nethercott as well.
“Words cannot make this right, but I would like to tell you that this was a random act of “violence” that does not reflect the same moral code as this club,” Berry wrote to Nethercott.
Berry said he received communication from Nethercott accepting their apology, who he quoted as saying the situation was “a done deal.”
Kimmet said he had seen Bray’s apology letter and would not comment as to whether he was content with the message. He said Bray’s original comments were disappointing but didn’t disagree with the overall sentiment for sending the message.
“It’s acceptable to be in disgust but not acceptable to say it in the way he said it,” he said.
Kimmet said when talking to Nethercott about the incident and informing her the letter was not from the party, she complimented Bray’s knowledge on the issue. In her response sent to Bray, she mentioned how she opposes Biden’s mandate herself.
“She was extremely gracious,” Kimmet said.
French said Bray was “totally out of line,” in his comments but said the bill would have made a statement for Wyoming if passed, even if it wouldn’t have changed the current status quo.
“It was an attempt to show we don’t want coerced vaccinations,” French said.
Sign of the times
Both Kost and Rep. Sandy Newsome (R-Cody) said they have received their fair share of hate mail over the last two years, with Newsome saying she has been receiving offensive messages on a weekly basis.
“People need to learn to listen,” Newsome said. “People come in with their own ideas cemented in grain.”
Newsome said she has been called a “dumb b----” by some, while Kost said he also received some offensive words. In one interaction, the third-year senator told the sender they were being inappropriate, to which they allegedly responded that he needed to “cowboy up” or “find a state where you can.”
“What happened to customary respect for each other?” Kost asked.
Newsome said she was "kind of" offended by some constituents referring to themselves as her “boss” in conversations. She said the well-saturated social media and news landscape made it easier than ever to find an opinion that aligns with your own, and less chance than ever for pre-held views to be challenged.
“Just the tone and attitude of, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,’” she said.
Newsome said those who don’t like the actions being taken should channel their energy towards garnering signatures for ballot initiatives.
On Sunday, Wyoming Rising hosted a group of panelists including former U.S. Sen Al Simpson and former Gov. Mike Sullivan to discuss the value and the future of our two-party political system. The forum divulged into a venting about current affairs, but Kost did express hope after attending the former U.S. Senator Mike Enzi’s funeral, mentioning the lawmakers’ philosophy of focusing on the 80% people agree on, rather than the 20% they don’t.
Kimmet said he isn’t surprised by the level of emotional rhetoric on display and sees it as a trickle down of fatigue from a controversial election, the mask and vaccine mandates that have all taken place over the last 18 months.
“Don’t tell me to wear a mask and get a vaccine,” he said. “Emotions are very, very high.”
French said he has experienced a message of strong urgency from his constituents, but no personal attacks. Kimmet commended people for getting more involved in and paying attention to politics. He doesn’t see there being an irreparable split between the moderate and far-right wings of the Republican Party at this time.
“The silent majority is becoming more reactive,” he said.
Newsome said a return to civility and respect would resolve the current level of hostility. French said the only resolution he sees would come from people moving past the COVID-19 virus, embracing his and his constituents’ viewpoints.
“People are frustrated,” French said. “COVID has just messed everything up.”