POWELL — A Park County Republican Party official who sent an obscene message to a state lawmaker about vaccine mandates has apologized for language he used. However, the Powell resident says he will not resign his position within the party — pushing back against calls from the state’s legislative leaders to step down — and has doubled down on his criticism of state Sen. Tara Nethercott.
On Sept. 12, Troy Bray emailed Nethercott, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and attacked her handling of a bill last spring that would have prohibited coerced vaccinations in the state. Bray said Senate File 94, which died in the committee in March, “would already have negated Biden’s dictatorial actions for Wyoming’s citizens.” He then spent the final six sentences of his message criticizing Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.
“If I were as despicable a person as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself. You sicken me,” Bray continued. “Thank you for ensuring that the people of Wyoming are subjected to tyranny once again.” He concluded by saying, “F— YOU C—.”
Sen. Nethercott responded the following day, telling Bray she shared his concerns about “the troubling vaccine requirements from the Biden administration” and that she supports Gov. Mark Gordon’s efforts to challenge them in court. However, the Cheyenne Republican said state lawmakers have a limited ability to oppose federal laws and that SF 94 would have had no impact on Biden’s requirements, as it only would have applied to Wyoming state governments.
“Please continue to reach out with questions or comments,” Nethercott finished, “we do appreciate hearing from you and I hope you have found this information helpful.”
She didn’t mention the obscene content of the email, nor has she publicly commented on it. However, the email thread — which Nethercott passed along to three other lawmakers — wound up circulating widely.
At a Sept. 19 event hosted by Wyoming Rising, former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson referenced the message, calling it “one of the coarsest, foulest, ignorant, dumb-witted things that has ever been sent to a chairman of the Judiciary Committee.”
After the message’s contents were published in the Casper Star-Tribune on Sept. 22, Wyoming Speaker of the House Eric Barlow and Senate President Dan Dockstader, who are both Republicans, issued a statement that condemned “the vulgar and threatening statements” and called on Bray to resign his position with the Park County Republican Party.
“Attacking a state legislator through use of violent, lewd and derogatory language cannot and will not go unanswered in Wyoming,” Barlow and Dockstader wrote Wednesday morning, adding, “The statements made by Mr. Bray are the antithesis to constructive discourse in a civil society and are especially repugnant and intolerable when made by an elected official.”
They also praised Nethercott for her “measured and composed response to Mr. Bray’s hateful email.”
Hours before the leaders issued their message, Bray posted a statement on Facebook acknowledging that he had concluded his email to Nethercott “with some language that was inappropriate.” However, he said he would not resign as a precinct committeeman.
“Senator Tara Nethercott, the language I used was inappropriate, and I apologize for the last word of my email,” Bray wrote. “But the cowardice and pettiness being shown by you and your supporters proves every other word of my e-mail. I will not be bullied, nor will I allow bullies to win.”
Bray signed his message by noting his position as a Park County Republican Party precinct committeeman and as secretary of the Park County Republican Men’s Club.
Both the Park County Republican Party and the Park County Republican Men’s Club quickly distanced themselves from Bray’s message and apologized to Nethercott, emphasizing that Bray’s email didn’t represent their organizations.
“Words cannot make this right but I would like to tell you that this was a random act of ‘violence’ that does not reflect the same moral code as this club,” men’s club treasurer Bob Berry wrote to Nethercott, asking for her forgiveness. Berry added that the club requested and received Bray’s resignation as secretary.
As for the Park County Republican Party itself, chairman Martin Kimmet said in an interview that he had reached out to Nethercott, saying he found Bray’s message “very disrespectful.”
“And though there was things that needed to be said, and you should be able to voice your views, you should do it in a respectful manner,” Kimmet said. “I wouldn’t want to be talked to like that as chairman; I wouldn’t want to be talked to like that as anybody on the street. I mean, there’s the right and wrong.”
Kimmet called Bray “a great patriot” and “bright as hell, but passionate people do passionate things and sometimes they come out the wrong way.”
He added that “these are emotional times, and that doesn’t make a right of a wrong, but it sure gives you reasons that that happens.”
In their Wednesday statement, Sen. Dockstader, R-Afton, and Rep. Barlow, R-Gillette, called on the leaders of the Wyoming and Park County Republican parties to join them in seeking Bray’s resignation, saying that “such a unified response will be a clear signal to all that Mr. Bray’s bullying and intimidation have no place in Wyoming.”
However, in a Wednesday evening statement, Kimmet noted there are no current laws that provide for an elected official to be removed from office in Wyoming. Barlow and Dockstader said they would help ensure there’s a way to remove elected officials for “such egregious behavior in the future,” and Dockstader said there had been some discussion about drafting such a bill.
“All we can do at the present is issue a statement. We have to see exactly where we go in the winter session,” he said in an interview.
He added that, “We have to return to civility.”
Kimmet said party leaders will discuss the matter in a closed-door executive session at an upcoming meeting.
Meanwhile, Bray said on Facebook last week that he has been receiving “a tremendous amount of support.”
“There are about a dozen people who hate me now, but they are all people I don’t respect anyway, so they were never going to be my friends,” he wrote Wednesday. “Those who I do respect are standing with me, even though I told them I would understand if they threw me under the bus. To quote one of them ‘Nope. I agree with everything you said.’”
In the comments, a fellow Park County Republican Party precinct committeeman, James Andrews of Powell, encouraged Bray to “KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT SIR!”
“We can’t quit,” added state Sen. Troy McKeown, R-Gillette.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, who originally sponsored Senate File 94, described Nethercott as “an absolute Tyrant.”
“I’m tired of being told to be nice to Liars and Tyrants,” Bouchard wrote, in a comment liked by Bray, state Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, and others.
SF 94 failed on a 4-1 vote in March in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the opposed lawmakers generally dismissing the idea that people would be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine.