Burlington House candidate called for Obama to be hanged in Tweet

Mike McGarhanBURLINGTON — In April Michael McGarghan, a candidate for state representative in Burlington’s Chittenden 6-1 district, tweeted “Take that traitor Obama & hang him from the neck until he’s dead!”

In an interview Monday, McGarghan, 49, said it might have been “a little harsh” to call for the president’s death by hanging, but he stood by his assertion that Obama is a traitor.

Mike McGarghan, candidate for Vermont House of Representatives. Courtesy photo

“It’s a citizen voicing frustration. It’s not an act that can be done. It’s meant as a point of frustration,” McGarghan said.

The Tweet is one of a handful from McGarghan that denounce the president, promote conspiracy theories about him and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or contain anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The Tweet calling for the president’s execution is accompanied by a link to a video from the far right political commentator Bill Whittle. In the video, Whittle explains how Obama, a “radical left-wing zealot raised by actual communists” is destroying the military.

Mike McGarhan
Asked for evidence that Obama is a traitor, McGarghan initially said he could point to things he’d seen on television or on “major news sources,” but when asked to cite a specific example he was unable.

“They’ve given the information, then it’s up to you to put the term traitor to it if you believe it fits,” McGarghan offered, still without an example.

Pressed further, McGarghan said, “(Obama) is pretty good at keeping this stuff at the second or third levels. He’ll delegate it to a second or third level assistants” who would then take the fall for the traitorous act. McGarghan could not cite an example of that occurring either.

“I’m spun up right now. I’m flooded, and not able to focus. Let’s see if my head will focus and I can come up with something,” McGarghan said, but never offered a specific example of the president’s teachery.

Another of McGarghan’s Tweets has a link to a video with charged imagery conflating migrants with terrorists, which appears to be narrated by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. The video description says, “Do not allow the (sic) islamification currently happening in Europe to reach America. Act now before (sic) its too late.”

McGarghan’s comment alongside the link is “Build the wall now, kick them now! Our security of Homeland comes before charity.”

McGarghan said he is a reluctant Donald Trump supporter, who backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz during the Republican Primary. He called the Republican nominee “brash” and “phony,” but he described Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as an “outright devious criminal.”

Many of McGarghan’s Tweets disparage Clinton, including one meme describing Clinton voters as idiots and dead people.

McGarghan said he served a tour of duty with the Air Force in Afghanistan in 2004, and that experience left him convinced that while many people in the Middle East were welcoming, there are also many who despise western culture.

“I’m not against the Muslims in total. I’m against the militant Islamics, and when you can’t determine who are the ones standing against you and who are the ones that are against the militants, that’s when it becomes dangerous,” he said.

McGarghan said he opposes the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, raising concerns that among the refugees could be “teenage men who could be plants from some terrorist groups.”

McGarghan said he understood the need to help Syrians fleeing the bloody civil war “on a humanitarian basis,” but he said “there’s too wide of a shotgun approach and I think it’s going to put us at risk.”

McGarghan suggested that Syrian refugees, while desperate to escape the violence in their country actually would not want to come the U.S. if they had another alternative.

“We’re looked at as the great Satan in the Muslim religion,” he said, “They want the safety of refuge away from the killing area, but there’s probably a lot of areas that they would be closer to home geographically and culture-wise.”

Not all people fleeing the violence in Syria are Muslims.

“Why is it that we keep on forcing this discussion that it should be the U.S. and it should be our backyard?” McGarghan asked.

Five neighboring majority-Muslim countries, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, host 4.5 million Syrian refugees, according to Amnesty International. The United States has accepted only 10,000 Syrian refugees since the civil war broke out in 2011, according to the New York Times.

Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, an incumbent and the other Republican running in the Chittenden 6-1 district, condemned McGarghan’s Tweet about the president as “beyond the pale” and said McGarghan’s language was “totally inappropriate language and offensive.”

“There’s no place for that type of language in a political discourse,” Wright said.

While Wright said he does not agree with McGarghan’s vilification of Muslims, he said he too has concerns about resettling Syrian refugees in the United States.

“What we don’t want is a breach of our security. We want to help children, we want to help families, but we have to be careful,” Wright said, “I support there being a serious vetting process to make sure the country is safe. If we can help people and make sure there’s not a security breach, that’s what we need to do.”

Wright would not comment on Rutland’s plans to resettle Syrian refugees, and would not comment on how he would respond if Burlington were to do the same.

Instead, Wright insisted that if he could be assured that resettling Syrian refugees presented no risk to public safety, then he would support resettlement.

Wright said that his concerns arose from a conversation he had several months ago with Congressman Peter King, a New York Republican, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee and chairs a sub-comittee on counterterrorism.

In that conversation, Wright said King told him that because the Syrian government is not a reliable partner in vetting those fleeing its war-ravaged borders, there are legitimate concerns that some refugees might be terrorists.

Wright said he asked King why a terrorist would use the asylum process to enter the U.S., instead of some other method, and Wright said his answer was that “we don’t think like terrorists.” Some terrorists might assimilate first, only to be “activated” by their handlers at a later date, Wright said.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the agency that coordinates resettlement, has sought to allay concerns about Syrian refugees arriving in Rutland, but those efforts have had mixed results. Rutland officials, including their police chief have called resettlement a “non-issue” for public safety.

Wright said that after the November election he plans to meet with Kit O’Connor, the legislative affairs person for Amnesty International in Vermont.

“When I’m convinced here is no concern whatsoever, and that may happen, then I’m fine with (Syrian refugee resettlement),” Wright said.

There is no love lost between the two Republicans running for seats in the two-member Chittenden 6-1 District. McGarghan has attacked Wright for not being a strong enough advocate for the Second Amendment.

“The Republicans haven’t been supportive because I’ve been critical of Kurt Wright,” McGarghan said, “I’ve felt I’m in a one against three race all along.”

Both candidates were reluctant to discuss the mutual enmity, but Wright said, “I ran very closely two years ago with Michael Ly…In this campaign, I’m totally running my own campaign, and I will leave it to the voters to sort things out. I think that tells the story.”

As for the criticism that he isn’t standing up for gun owners, Wright defended his record.

Wright was recently given a F rating from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, which grades candidates support for pro-gun policies. The NRA had previously endorsed Wright, but Wright said that his support for gun legislation in the previous biennium lost him his A rating.

“I got a very bad rating from the NRA this time. I am a strong believer in the Second Amendment, but I also support — and I’ve told people in my district — I support common sense measures,” Wright said.

Wright said the bill signed into law was “watered down” and pro-gun groups had largely dropped their opposition to its passage. Early on in the process, it was stripped of a provision requiring universal background checks.

Wright said his support for Burlington’s gun-related charter changes also hurt his standing with the NRA. Those charter changes stalled when the Legislature declined to take them up citing potential constitutional issues, which Wright said he’d raised when the changes were put before city voters.

Wright said he only co-signed the legislation with other Burlington representatives because he won’t oppose the will of city voters, who overwhelmingly supported the charter changes.

The Democrats running in Chittenden 6-1 also condemned McGarghan’s Tweets. Rep. Joanna Cole, D-Burlington, the other incumbent, called McGarghan’s Tweet about the president racist and “beneath human decency.”

Democrat Carol Ode said McGarghan’s “angry words only serve to divide us.”

DISCLOSURE: Carol Ode is a member of the Vermont Journalism Trust board.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story former candidate for state representative Michael Ly’s name was misspelled.

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  • Jan van Eck

    Now you know why I am a committed Monarchist.

  • Mike Ferzoco

    A classic case of drinking the fox news kool-aid and believing every word. I find it treasonous to denounce the democratically elected Commander in chief, especially if you’re in uniform. If this guy is active duty, he deserves a bad conduct discharge.

  • I’ll spell it out for you: B A S K E T O F D E P L O R A B L E S (but what else should we expect from the Republican Party that in 2008 nominated Sarah Palin for VP and a short eight years later nominated Son of Sarah – aka Don Trump – for President?)

    • Paul Richards

      I don’t see what this deplorable act has to do with Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, in spite of her squeaky voice she is a true patriot, something we could use a whole lot more of.

  • Dave Bellini

    I don’t know how many “watch lists” there are but this guy needs to be on one.

    • Walter Carpenter

      “I don’t know how many “watch lists” there are but this guy needs to be on one.”

      Agreed. We need to watch out for this fascist and not the Syrians coming here.

  • kevin ellis

    Has this man received a visit from the Secret Service or the police? It is standard protocol for threats against the president to be investigated.

  • Patti Komline

    Mr McGarghan is a disgrace, not only to his party, but to all Vermonters. I’m sure he’ll realize how few voters he speaks for post-election. He can then return to the hole from which he crawled.

  • robert bristow-johnson

    I am disappointed and surprized. Not only is Mike McGarghan a candidate for Vermont House, he is, along with me, an elected Inspector of Election for Burlington’s Ward 7. Mike was elected as a write-in with no opponent on the ballot last Town Meeting Day. As I recall, he had something like 40 votes (enough for election if no one else received more votes.) I was on the ballot in 2015.

    I knew Mike was a 2nd-Amendment advocate (I won’t say “gun nut”) and a little bit fringey on the Right. But I had hoped that Mike would be both useful and satisfied as Ward 7 IoE. I was sorta looking forward to working with him on elections other than the coming election (since he is a candidate on the ballot, he cannot work the poll as IoE on November 8).

    Mike, respectfully, you may not advocate violence against the President or other high officials of the U.S. government. (Wikipedia says it’s a Class E felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871.) This could be trouble for you.

  • Bob Stannard

    Perhaps the most disturbing part of this article is the 6-9 people who voted in favor of this man in the comments section.

  • Kathy Callaghan

    We don’t need this kind of hatred and divisiveness in Vermont. This is our commander in chief we’re talking about here. Let’s all work together to preserve our dignity and our ability to have public discourse without hatred. This man should be repudiated at all levels.

    • Neil Johnson

      It’s true what you say, but we’ve heard a lot worse from many Vermonters on another president, we actually voted to jail him. We aren’t nice on either side, it’s too bad.

  • Thanks for bringing this guy’s views out in the open. Hopefully, he will never get elected. We can keep those opinions out of Montpelier

  • Best thing to do with this guy is strip him of his US citizenship. How the heck does a guy say things like this in public. I hope that the US Gov’t investigates this and takes some form of action against him. I thought threatening to kill someone was a crime.

  • James Leopold

    I am saddened by the direction of political discourse in our country. I find the disinformation spread by FOX News (really just a poor excuse for entertainment) and other right and left wing news organizations and commentators offensive, and sometimes inflammatory.
    The disrespect that is so often directed at our elected leaders is extremely disheartening at best.
    We, as citizens in a democracy are burdened with the responsibility to be informed, and able to distinguish between misinformation and reality.

  • Hale irwwin

    If this guy is on active duty his command failed if they let him get away with his treasoness words. He needs to do a little thinking and also a llot of PT.

  • Ralph Colin

    As a retired Air Force officer and a citizen who disagrees on most issues with our current President, I find it despicable that a candidate from any party would advocate that the President of the United States is a traitor and should be executed.

    While any candidate has the right to include his military service in his/her resume, I believe that it is unusual and possibly illegal to include a photo of himself in uniform as Sgt. McGarghan has apparently done in his political campaign literature. I know for a fact that military personnel are prohibited from attending or participating in political gatherings while wearing their uniforms.

    I am reasonably certain that the vast majority of Vermont citizens, particularly veterans, would
    be critical of McGarghan’s political comments and beliefs, but I’m positive that most Republicans would wish to put some distance between their political positions and those expressed by McGarghan.

    • And Ralph, I’m happy to back you up on this. As minority leader in the Senate, I deplore such comments and know (without even bothering to poll them) that my caucus colleagues do as well. We presently have an obstacle with the national train wreck taking place, but Americans (and especially we Vermonters) can rebuild civility and respect into political discourse working from the ground up by calling out anyone who stoops to this level. Mr. McGarghan, your expressed opinion is not welcome or appreciated by those of us who’ve been working hard to maintain the Vermont Republican Party as a viable political institution in this state.

      • robert bristow-johnson

        Senator, I said this before and will again: The national GOP is deeply corrupt and dysfunctional and in desperate need of reform. The national GOP would rather see the country harmed than see it helped from policy coming from Obama or (in the future) Clinton. The Vermont GOP does not seem to be like this and has a nice history including the likes of Gov. Aiken, Sen Jeffords, even Pres. Coolidge.

        I really truly think that prominent Vermont Republicans need to step up to the plate in reforming the GOP nationally. Your party and your country are calling on you to serve in this difficult task.

        Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have something to learn from you.

        If only all Republicans were like Vermont Republicans.

    • Peter Liston

      It would be good to get a statement from the Vermont Republican Party on this. Do they support McGarghan?

    • A.L. Jillson

      “I know for a fact that military personnel are prohibited from attending or participating in political gatherings while wearing their uniforms.”

      Are you aware that in beginning in 2013, and multiple times since then, members of the Vermont Air National Guard have attended political meetings regarding the F35 basing in large numbers IN UNIFORM to influence public policy? They have apparently exempted themselves from the military rules that protect citizens from this kind of threatening and inappropriate influence.

      Considering the unethical and corrupt behavior that the VTANG leadership has engaged in on the F35 basing decision, (exposed through the court-ordered release of internal emails), it is obvious that the VTANG considers itself above the law. This is a very dangerous and serious threat to democracy and begins a journey down the path of military facism.

  • David C.Austin

    While Mr. McGarghan’s comments may be found to be inappropriate, outrageous, and ill-advised, they probably are not illegal. But there are likely many in positions of authority that would glady torture the language of the First Ammendment in an effort to make them so. The suggestion that he, or anyone else should be placed on a “watch list” or.”stripped of his citizenship” is equally inappropriate. This sentiment, and the fact that “watch lists” even exist is one of the factors that cause many in our society to share the perspective that Mr. McGarghan has of our government. That I may disagree with another’s perspective does not negate their right to have or express it.

    • Jeanne Keller

      Excuse me, David Austin, but threatening violence and/or death, in particular assassination of the President of the United States, is NOT protected by the First Amendment. And as for not placing him on a watch list for making a call for assassination of the President,what do you propose be done regarding individuals who by their own statements and behavior declare themselves to be a threat to others? Vigilantism?

      • David C.Austin

        Please read and comprehend my comment. I am not a lawyer. Which is why I stated in my comment that “…they are probably not illegal”. You, and a number of others seem to believe with absolute certainty that they are. Unless you happen to be an attorney that is well versed in constitutional law, you, along with myself and everyone else are not qualified to issue an edict with regard to this matter. As far as “watch lists”, if someone is suspected of a crime, arrest them and charge them. Otherwise leave them alone. Our government’s surveillance of it’s own citizens is fundamentally no different than that which has been practiced in the past by the KGB, the Stasi, and a number of other entities in various police states. Most Americans find that objectionable elsewhere in the world, yet seem to tolerate the same behavior here in the interest of “safety”. Trying Mr McGarghan in the court of public opinion serves no useful purpose.

      • Jamie Carter

        I think it’s clear he didn’t say he was going to hang Obama, at least to a reasonable person. Therefore it wasn’t a threat.

        As for the watch list, I would propose you actually speak to the person. Give them a fear hearing and allow them to defend themselves against the charges brought… you know allow them due process. That’s the problem with the watch list, there is no way to know you are even on it let alone exercise your constitutionally guaranteed right to defend yourself against charges. For all you or I know you could be on the list Ms. Keller… commenting on this board you likely are.

      • David C.Austin

        I am not an attorney. Which is why in my comment I stated that “they are probably not illegal” with regard to Mr. McGarghan’s comments. Unless you are an attorney who is well-versed in constitutional law, neither you, myself, or anyone else is qualified to issue an edict on the legality of Mr. McGarghan’s tweets. As far as “watch lists”, if someone is suspected of a crime, charge them. Otherwise, leave them alone. Our government’s surveillance of it’s own citizens is fundamentally no different than that which was practiced by the KGB and the Stasi. We abhor such things elsewhere, yet many willingly tolerate it here in the interests of “safety”.

  • J Scott Cameron

    Any tweet calling for the lynching of the President must be condemned. Further, McGarghan should be investigated and possibly charged with a federal offense. All political parties in Vermont should promptly and clearly denounce this statement and this candidate.

  • Barbie Alsop

    The things coming out of the woodwork since Trump began his assault on civility (among other things) explain why he is still standing in this race. The number of conspiracy theories propounded by Trump and others has given the weak-minded something to hold on to, to the distress of other Vermonters. I hope this man receives treatment for his delusions.

  • Adam Holt

    He should be removed from his position as an Inspector of Election in Burlington.

  • Craig Bingham

    Has anyone determined whether McGarghan actually earned all of those ribbons?

  • Dennis Works

    Personally, I am very PROUD of the Vermonters, Republican or Democrat or otherwise, conservative or liberal, politician or private citizen, who have spoken out against Michael McGarghan and his hateful words and message.

  • Kevin Joseph Ryan

    Certainly, Mike McGarghan called for the assassination of no one, he specified that the House and Senate “did their job first”, clearly noting impeachment. I might not have used the type of ambiguous language that Mr. McGarghan did, but I understand and respect his sentiment that Barack Obama may have been the worst president in American history and very clearly is a traitor to the United States, with that I agree.

    You want an example? Before Obama, that United States had never enacted a tax which citizens must pay simply for breathing, as with Obamacare. Another? Obama’s plans to let Syrians and other refugees into the US with little to no vetting demonstrates his disregard for the welfare of the American people.

    Having known and worked with McGarghan for many years, i know him to be a good man, a dedicated father, a decorated veteran and someone I’d be proud to serve with….much moreso than Kurt Wright, whose past conduct has been reprehensible.

    • J Scott Cameron

      He called for a lynching. The statement is about as racist and dangerous as one could make in these troubled times.

  • Rob Bryan

    McGarghan’s trying to walk back his comment as a little harsh….really? Add to that it’s an overtly racist statement.

  • Jim Carrier

    Mr. McGarghan told a meeting on the North Lane bike lanes that he is a one-issue candidate — I understood that to mean he’s against the bike lanes. Clearly, he needs to stay in the New North End. His views are those of a lone demagogue…

  • A.L. Jillson

    “I know for a fact that military personnel are prohibited from attending or participating in political gatherings while wearing their uniforms.”
    Are you aware that in beginning in 2013, and multiple times since then, members of the Vermont Air National Guard have attended political meetings regarding the F35 basing in large numbers IN UNIFORM to influence public policy? They have apparently exempted themselves from the military rules that protect citizens from this kind of threatening and inappropriate influence.
    Considering the unethical and corrupt behavior that the VTANG leadership has engaged in on the F35 basing decision, (exposed through the court-ordered release of internal emails), it is obvious that the VTANG considers itself above the law. This is a very dangerous and serious threat to democracy and begins a journey down the path of military facism.

  • John Wagner

    Is this man being investigated by the US Secret Service? Threatening to kill the President is against the law.