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Erik Burgess, Published February 10 2014

Some Moorhead council members 'dislike' fellow council member's anti-GOP Facebook post

MOORHEAD – Some City Council members here could use a “dislike” button on Facebook after a newly elected councilman posted a message on his profile calling the Republican Party a cult aiming to “brainwash ignorant people with misinformation.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Chuck Hendrickson shared the message from a Facebook group called “Liberals Unite” on Sunday, and it was publicly visible.

In a phone interview Monday, Hendrickson said the post was not meant to offend anyone and that he only wanted to start a dialogue among his Facebook friends. He deleted or otherwise removed the post shortly after the interview.

But Councilwoman Nancy Otto, the longest-serving member, said the post was “disappointing” and caused her jaw to drop.

“It creates division when we really should be trying our best not to be polarizing at a council level,” she said.

The image Hendrickson shared was titled, “WARNING to U.S. Citizens.” It cited New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge scandal and the recent federal government shutdown as reasons “to fear the Republican party.”

The image also said the Republican Party has “betrayed” the Constitution, “hurt U.S. citizens,” that they use “bullying tactics like dictators,” and that “like a cult, they brainwash ignorant people with misinformation with the help of fake religious leaders and their fake news station Fox News.”

Hendrickson said he has friends who are “die-hard” Republicans and tea party supporters, and he posted the picture to start a conversation.

“Was it appropriate? Probably not. I shouldn’t have shared it,” he said. “But, it just gets a good conversation about how the federal government is dysfunctional right now, and we just talk about it.”

Mari Dailey, a newly elected council member in the 1st Ward, commented on the post with one word: “Amen!”

That didn’t sit too well with Councilman Mike Hulett. Hulett wrote an email Monday morning to council members Otto, Brenda Elmer, Jim Haney and former Mayor Morrie Lanning, a Republican who represented Moorhead in the Legislature for 10 years.

“I cannot tell you the degree to which I am outraged by this!” Hulett wrote. He then cited Dailey’s comment and added “Are you kidding me?”

Hulett declined further comment when reached by phone Monday afternoon.

In an interview Monday, Dailey agreed with Hendrickson, saying the post was meant to start a dialogue and that she sees a “definite separation” between national politics and local government.

“I think locally, every single person on that council is not there to promote the agenda or platform of a particular political belief system,” Dailey said. “I think everyone there is there to promote the city of Moorhead and what’s best for our people.”

Dailey said she believed council members “running to The Forum tattling” about a Facebook post was more polarizing than the post itself.

Hendrickson said he would speak privately to Otto and Hulett sometime before or after Monday’s council meeting and will not share similar posts.

“It’s nothing malicious,” Hendrickson said. “It’s nothing I believe in.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518