Couy Griffin, the New Mexico Republican whose video was just retweeted by Donald Trump, wants you to know that he wasn’t really calling for people to kill his political opposition when he told a crowd: “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
Griffin claims he didn’t mean that literally, just politically. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Then he adds that Democrats may yet be convicted of treason: “You get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope.”
The Otero County Commissioner (and founder of Cowboys For Trump) made the remarks at a May 17 rally opposing New Mexico’s COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to a conclusion where the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” he told the crowd. Then he tried to clarify his meaning.
"I don't say that in the physical sense, and I can already see where the videos getting edited where it says I want to go murder Democrats," Griffin continued. "No. I say that in the political sense because the Democrat agenda and policy is anti-American right now."
Disclaimers notwithstanding, Griffin has faced statewide calls for his resignation, which he has steadfastly refused. The New Mexico Republican Party issued a statement: "The Republican Party of New Mexico wants to state for the record that any statements, whether in jest or serious about harming another individual are just plain wrong."
Nonetheless, Trump early today retweeted the Cowboys For Trump video of Griffin’s remarks with the message: “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!”
Griffin told Will Sommer of The Daily Beast that he “could've chosen a different verbiage,” adding: “I guess I need to be more careful when I choose the words that I speak. But you know, it’s just so hypocritical of the left how they’re blowing this up, like I’m some hate-speech murderer.” Then he went on to describe the two options facing Democratic officials enforcing pandemic-related closures and stay-at-home orders—hanging or firing squad.
Griffin is no stranger to deploying violent rhetoric for political purposes. In January, during the run-up to protests in Richmond, Virginia, related to gun-control legislation, he posted to the Cowboys For Trump page on Facebook: "Virginia I'm coming your way. And I got a rope on my saddle if you think we may need it?"
Other previous threats by Griffin include: “I don’t care if you are governor, you can still swing at the end of a rope.” He had earlier encouraged Trump on Twitter: “There will come a day when politics won’t be able to hide treasonous acts. Hang em high Mr. President!”
Griffin, like many other “Patriot” pandemic denialists, sees civil war emerging from the conflict over pandemic lockdown efforts: “As we see our nation sit at rest I believe that we could see a huge unrest in our nation soon. My biggest fear is rioting and looting in our big cities. If it does, that could be much more of a threat than the coronavirus.”
The protests nationwide have been accompanied by a deluge of threats directed both at public officials, not to mention health care workers. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was subjected to multiple threats to assassinate her voice on social media during the days before the recent anti-pandemic-orders “Judgement Day” protest in Lansing, which turned into a rainy fizzle.
In Washington state, the far right exposed the names and contact information of people who had reported violations of the state’s stay-at-home orders, resulting in a flood of death threats directed at the informants. In Colorado, a man who threatened to bring his rifle to an anti-lockdown protest in Denver turned out to have been building an arsenal of pipe bombs in his basement. And in Ohio, a “Boogaloo Boi”—one of the many far-right “Patriots” who believes the pandemic is a prelude to a civil war in which they intend to avidly participate—planned to ambush police officers in a national park.