Timestamps show lawmaker was in chat that discussed violence
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — An embattled Washington state lawmaker said he joined a group chat after others suggested acts of violence against opponents, but portions of a chat log obtained by a newspaper contradict that claim.
Republican state Rep. Matt Shea joined or was added to the group on Oct. 29, 2017 -- the same day one member suggested confronting leftist activists at their homes and workplaces, the Spokesman-Review reported Saturday.
Days later, Shea sent a message to the group just three minutes before another participant suggested “hoisting communists up flag poles.”
Messages and emails to Shea seeking comment were not immediately returned Saturday. But he told a right-wing radio host in Seattle Wednesday that he joined the conversation after the portions about violence occurred.
“I was added toward the end of the conversation, absolutely,” Shea said Wednesday in an interview with radio host Jason Rantz.
Two other participants, Anthony Bosworth and Jack Robertson, have also claimed Shea was not part of the conversation during the talk of violence, which they called a “tongue-in-cheek” response to rumors of left-wing protests in early November 2017. The protests never occurred.
Reached by phone Thursday, Bosworth, who took part in the 2016 armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, told The Spokesman-Review that the chat logs had been altered before they were shared with reporters. He didn’t dispute the contents of the individual messages, but claimed they had been shuffled out of chronological order.
There was no indication that Shea proposed acts of violence himself. He did express a willingness to conduct background checks on political opponents.
Leaders of the state House of Representatives have said they will investigate Shea’s actions after Democrats called for his expulsion from the GOP caucus.
The Guardian newspaper was the first to report that Shea took part in the group chat.
Shea, who represents a deeply conservative district, has served in the state House since 2008, and has embraced far-right conspiracy theories, mingled with militia groups and visited right-wing activists who seized a wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016.
The military veteran attracted international attention in 2018 after a document he wrote laid out a “biblical basis for war” against people who practiced same-sex marriage and abortion and instructed: “If they do not yield, kill all males.”
Shea lost some political donors and was stripped of his role as chair of the Republican caucus after that. But he has since introduced bills to criminalize abortion and roll back gun laws.
He has also pushed for eastern Washington to secede from the rest of the state and create a 51st state called Liberty.