Fierce backlash against MLK critic

By Brian Fitzpatrick

Brett Reese

Death threats. Character assassination. Public repudiation. Demands to quit the local school board. Infringement on his right to bear arms. A pressure campaign against his advertisers. All for daring to broadcast a commentary acknowledging the smudges on the character of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Greeley, Colo. businessman Brett Reese, a real estate investor and owner of radio station KELS and the Greeley Gazette newspaper, has been weathering the storm since last Friday, when he began twice-daily broadcasts of a listener’s commentary questioning whether America should celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

“To me it’s a First Amendment right, but apparently in our society you can’t pee on the altar of political correctness. That is enough to get you death threats,” Reese told WND.

KELS, better known as 104.7 Pirate Radio, devotes most of its programming to music, but the station also routinely runs commentaries related to upcoming events like the Jan. 17 MLK holiday. Reese airs such commentaries for up to two weeks at a time.

The controversial five-minute commentary raises a set of historically accurate but rarely acknowledged facts about King, including his repeated sexual infidelities and plagiarism. The commentary refers to King as an “America-hating communist,” a charge that is disputed. It also describes King as a “sexual degenerate.”

The commentary initially referred to a website that Reese subsequently discovered was linked to a racist organization. After Reese found out about the racism, he removed any mention of the website.

The Greeley District 6 School Board reacted harshly to the commentary, issuing a statement castigating Reese and affirming celebration of MLK Day.

The school board statement calls Reese’s words “unfortunate,” “inflammatory” and “detrimental.” It defended his right to express his views “as a private citizen,” but also noted he is ” … an elected member of this board of education.”

“As such his behavior has the unfortunate effect of being linked to our board and school district,” declared the board.

“Timed as they are, Mr. Reese’s words demean the existence of the Martin Luther King holiday and its honoring of not just Reverend King but of his messages of equal rights, peaceful demonstration, civility and respect,” wrote the board, which adopted the statement unanimously after Reese walked out of a Monday meeting.

“They’re all a bunch of flaming radical lefties,” said Reese, who said he is the only conservative on the board. “I’ve had my character assassinated.”

School board president Linda Trimberger was not available for comment.

Greeley Gazette writer Jack Minor noted that Reese has been broadcasting the commentary for three years, but encountered no complaints until this year.

“This year the only thing that’s different is the Gazette,” Minor told WND. The conservative-leaning paper is a new publication, and Minor said Colorado politicians have told him the Gazette’s presence has forced the rival Greeley Tribune to provide more balanced political coverage.

Minor suggested the MLK tempest is not inspired by genuine outrage over the commentary, but by a desire to discredit the Gazette by smearing Reese. In addition to influencing local news coverage, the Gazette covers the Obama presidential eligibility issue extensively.

As a consequence of airing the commentary, Reese told WND he has received death threats, in person, to himself and his family. He added that numerous death threats have been posted on discussion boards of Denver-area news websites.

Reese declined to describe the threats in detail.

“I don’t want to put any ideas into the mind of some lunatic,” he told WND.

Reese told his fellow school board members he has decided to carry a gun to school board meetings, which are normally held in administrative buildings.

“If you have someone threaten to put a bullet in your head like Martin Luther King had, what would you do?” Reese told the Greeley Tribune. “Would you still bring a gun?”

The board “freaked out” about Reese’s announcement, said Minor.

In response to Reese, the school board convened an emergency meeting Wednesday night in an elementary school, where carrying a gun is illegal, to discuss ways to deny Reese the right to carry arms to board meetings even while he’s facing death threats.

Critics have also launched a campaign to drive Pirate Radio’s sponsors away from the radio station.

Advertiser Matt Arguello, owner of Gwen’s Salon, confirmed that he has received threatening phone calls, but he refuses to knuckle under.

“We’re going to continue to advertise on Pirate Radio,” Arguello told WND. ” I compare it to being strong-armed by the mob. I’m not going to be strong-armed because somebody wants to silence somebody. I think that’s wrong.”

Arguello also works at Pirate Radio as a disc jockey.

“Even if I wasn’t employed at Pirate Radio I would still stick with my sponsorship,” said Arguello. “Pirate Radio has worked for us, it has drawn people into the shop.”