Response to Cecile Wehrman’s Tioga Tribune Editorial
By: Justin R. LaBar
3 November 2021
We live in an age of “fake news”. It’s a time in which many news outlets seem more interested in pushing agendas than reporting facts. It’s a sad reality that we’ve come to expect this from a number of mainstream media sources. Perhaps it’s even more unfortunate when local news sources become guilty of the same. This is exactly the case with Cecile Wehrman and the Tioga Tribune.
On the evening of October 23rd, a local grassroots organization known as ND Sons of Liberty gathered for an event in Tioga that was dubbed “Freedom Fest”. The fundamental purpose of this meeting was to provide the public with information regarding the upcoming special legislative session in Bismarck. The featured speakers at the event were Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R-Minot), Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R-Lisbon), and myself.
I was not an organizer of the event, but was asked to be the keynote speaker. I’m certain that invitation was not extended to me because I’m anything special. I’ve been District 2 Republican Chair for over four years and have been politically active for some time. I’m the hometown guy when it comes to the district, so I’m guessing that factored in on the decision to have me speak.
As legislators who are directly involved with upcoming legislation -- especially in relation to vaccine mandates -- it made sense that Representatives Hoverson and Ertelt were invited to inform the public and hold a question and answer session. Overall, about 120 people felt it was important enough to attend.
There’s no question that those who spoke have strong personalities and are very opinionated. If anyone was looking for politically correct fluff, they’d have undoubtedly gone away disappointed. My remarks were based on the historical classic given by Patrick Henry that is now known as, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”. Having said that, the tone of the meeting and things said there were not quite what Ms. Wehrman of the Tioga Tribune makes them out to be.
This morning a friend sent me a screenshot of what Ms. Wehrman wrote under the headline, “Revolutionary Talk is Newsworthy”. In her editorial, Wehrman says that “public officials and their guests” had advanced “the specter of taking up arms against countrymen to ‘fix’ our broken system”. She cherry picked words like “enemies”, “fight”, and “human blood” as a means of telling readers how “alarming” all this was.
If someone had not attended our meeting themselves, and were simply reading what Cecile Wehrman wrote, they might just come away with the impression that we’re some sort of revolutionaries calling for an armed rebellion. There’s only one problem with that--- it simply isn’t true.
Was the word “enemies” used? Yes. Rep. Ertelt rightfully identified those who support policies that are a threat to human Liberty and fail to support those that advance it. He even named some of his colleagues in Bismarck--- gasp.
Was the word “fight” used? It most certainly was. In fact, I’ll share the exact quote from the speech I delivered that night:
“There is no longer any room for hope when it comes to Washington. If we wish freedom for ourselves and our posterity -- if we are pledged to the cause of Liberty -- then we must fight! I repeat--- We must fight! And we must do it with an appeal to God to be by our side!”
Now, with that alone, you might be concerned. But I followed it up with this:
“Now, to be clear, and unlike Patrick Henry, the fight I am speaking of is not an armed conflict. Heaven forbid.”
Was there any mention of “human blood”? There was. Again, that one came from me. In fact, it followed my comments that I just shared with you. It was in the form of a quote -- that I feel is worth remembering -- from former Ambassador to Mexico, J. Reuben Clark:
“I say to you that the price of liberty is and always has been blood, human blood, and if our liberties are lost, we shall never regain them except at the price of blood. They must not be lost.”
As you can see, when we look at the things that were said in context, there was no call to arms or advocating for some sort of violent revolution. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We don’t want that--- at all. We want the government to do what it is supposed to do--- protect our liberties. It’s really that simple.
What’s especially intriguing about Ms. Wehrman’s editorial is that she wrote it without actually attending our meeting herself. So, either she was grossly misinformed about what transpired there or she has no problem intentionally misleading the public. Either way, her account is horribly inaccurate and irresponsible. Readers of the Tioga Tribune deserve better.
I suppose this really shouldn’t surprise us though. After all, Cecile Wehrman is a Democrat. She even ran for State House in District 2 way back in 2008. Thankfully, she lost to David Rust and Bob Skarphol.
Perhaps it’s time for readers of the Tioga Tribune to spend their money on a more reliable source of news. Regardless though, it’s most definitely time for Ms. Wehrman to apologize to those she’s so egregiously misrepresented.
-Justin LaBar, White Earth
***If you'd like a transcript of Justin LaBar's October 23rd speech, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.