A reported death threat left on Rep. Paul Gosar’s answering machine has triggered an investigation and a new round of political recrimination and polarization.

A conservative online publication initially reported the expletive-laced threat blasting Gosar for downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic, calling him a murderer and including the statement “I think it’s totally OK for me to come with my gun and shoot you in the head.”

Gosar turned the recording over to Capitol Police who are investigating the call that Gosar’s caller ID identified as coming from the phone of Margaret Kathleen Spangenberg, according to the Arizona Daily Independent’s report.

The Arizona Daily Independent has previously reported other political stories that proved misleading, including a story about endorsements in Wendy Roger’s primary campaign for the nomination in Arizona State Senate District 6.

Spangenberg’s Facebook page at one point identified her as a retired teacher and used a banner supporting Democratic Senate Candidate Mark Kelly as a profile picture, according to the Daily Independent. The Facebook page had been taken down by the time other reporters went to look for it.

Republicans moved quickly to turn the threat against Kelly, the former astronaut and pilot who has a narrow lead in the polls over former Air Force pilot Republican Sen. Martha McSally. Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to the senate seat held by John McCain until his death from cancer.

Gosar over the weekend tweeted that the suspect was a “big” Kelly “activist” and claimed violence against conservatives “is trickling down from Antifa street mobs to the ‘red for ed’ socialists.”

That’s a reference to both Black Lives Matter demonstrations nationally and protests by Arizona teachers seeking in increase in state funding for K-12 schools.

Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward tweeted that Democrats “have totally abdicated their duty as elected officials to maintain law and order in America and now they have lost control of the Extreme and Radical Left. Mark Kelly must condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms — this is not OK!”

Kelly issued a statement condemning the threat. His wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, survived an assassination attempt after a deranged gunman shot her in the head. He killed six people and wounded 13 at a Tucson Mall in 2011.

“I know what it means to have an act of violence committed against a Member of Congress and family member,” Kelly tweeted. “I strongly condemn this threat against Rep. Gosar. Threats of violence like this are wrong. I’m glad Capitol Police is investigating.”

The threat and the reactions it spawned come at a highly charged moment, with lethal violence breaking out at ongoing protests throughout the country and President Trump making law and order a cornerstone of the national campaign.

Rep. Gosar had previously tweeted his own strong support for Kyle Rittenhouse, a right-wing protestor who claimed self defense in shooting and killing two Black Lives Matter protestors in Wisconsin. Rittenhouse has been charged with murder. Shortly thereafter, a Trump supporter was shot and killed at a protest in Portland, Ore. The suspect in that shooting was subsequently killed by police as he resisted arrest.

Gosar represents Arizona’s Congressional District 1, which stretches from Yuma through Prescott into Northern Gila County. He’s facing opposition from former nurse and hospital administrator Delina DiSanto in the solidly Republican district.

”I worked for retired U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and he told me, you have to take every threatening call seriously and report it. Social media has created a means for people to promote hate and divisiveness which is causing anger and fear. But we can’t allow that anger and fear to give rise to harm or violence. I firmly condemn anyone whose behavior verbally or physically would cause violence and threats against Rep. Gosar. I’m glad he reported it. I would like to get on the path to start healing our state and nation,” DiSanto said.

Gosar has frequently gained national attention with his provocative tweets, which often include support for various conspiracy theories.

He recently retweeted a video by a social media commentator identified as “Rageaholic” pushing a theory that the Democratic Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes essentially rigged the 2018 vote counting to produce McSally’s narrow election loss to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. No one has produced any evidence of missing or miscounted ballots. McSally led narrowly in ballots counted by the end of election day, but it took days to finish counting all the mail-in ballots turned in at the polls on election day. The process took so long that the courts allowed counties to continue counting ballots until Nov. 14. In the end, Sinema won by 2.3% — even winning districts that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey won easily.

Gosar’s tweet said Rageaholic’s rant did a “supreme job of taking apart 2018 and how ballot fraud stole her victory. Listen and understand why the left wants mail-in ballots nationally and how easy it is to steal votes.”

In another recent incident, Rep. Gosar said on a televised interview that the pandemic has been overblown. He suggested the COVID-19 pandemic will end on election day since the Democrats are inflating the danger and focusing on the virus mostly to make President Trump look bad.

Rep. Gosar’s social media posts pushing unproven conspiracy theories have for years provoked reaction, including a suggestion that Democratic funder and Holocaust survivor George Soros was a Nazi sympathizer, that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered while serving time for sexual abuse and that Democrats backed by Soros actually were behind a North Carolina demonstration by Nazi white supremacists that resulted in the death of a protestor.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

(1) comment

Vtrone

Rep. Gosar has been caught alleging so many falsehoods about other people that this looks like another one to add to his list of lies.

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