Behind the Headlines: Romney and gang miss the mark in Iron County

CEDAR CITY – Iron County Republicans just got put on the map thanks to Salt Lake Tribune news columnist Paul Rolly, albeit it wasn’t the way they would have liked.

In his most recent column, Rolly could have written about a number of topics regarding Iron County. He could have described the spirit of volunteerism in Iron County or talked about the growth we are experiencing and why people are attracted to coming here. He could have explored the explosive numbers Southern Utah University has experienced in recent years. He could have written about our world-renowned Shakespearean Festival or even just about our beautiful scenery that people from all over come to enjoy.

Instead, he chose to do a complete hack job on Iron County residents using a third-hand account by friends of former GOP presidential candidate and now U.S. Senate hopeful, Mitt Romney.

Evidently, Rolly lent his ear to Romney’s “gang” for some time recently listening to them recount Romney’s experience at the Iron County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner held in February.

According to Rolly’s account, “To say the experience in Cedar City was bizarre would be an understatement — at least when one hears how Romney reportedly described the encounter to several friends and acquaintances.”

To read Rolly’s narrative of how Romney described the GOP event is nothing short of a scene right out of the video game “Far Cry 5,” with right-wing, conservative, gun-toting rednecks whose cult leader is none other than the infamous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Romney apparently felt so much disgust for the people around him he was forced at one point to “escape into the kitchen” just to get away.

“He’s got to be thinking, ‘What I have gotten myself into,” developer Kem Gardner and one of Romney’s closest pals told Rolly.

The problem with the column is, the story is inaccurate. Beginning with the most obvious, Rolly writes that Cliven Bundy gave the invocation however, it wasn’t Cliven Bundy but his son Ryan Bundy. While this factual error may not seem like a big deal it calls into question the accuracy of the entire narrative.

While Romney and his gang had no problem making Iron County residents out to look like they came right out of Waco Texas, their depiction of the people is not any more correct than who they pegged as giving the opening prayer.

As a reporter who has covered and lived in Iron County for seven years, my opinion comes with a little more insight and knowledge.

So, let me start by giving an accurate portrayal of who our citizens really are.

Iron County has a variety of professionals and business owners. Among them we have artists, musicians, journalists, cabinet makers, real estate agents, politicians, religious leaders, teachers and police officers.

The people here have strong work ethics and family values. The community also enjoys a spirit of volunteerism that many outsiders have said, is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.

Do we have rednecks? Yes. Do we have staunch conservatives? Yes. Do we have Bundy supporters? Yes. Do we have voters who believe strongly in the second amendment? Yes.

We also have liberals, moderates, Democrats, Libertarians, people who support gun control legislation and legalizing marijuana. Believe it or not, there are also many residents here who do not regard the Bundys as patriots.

But besides our amazing and diverse citizenry, we also have great businesses, schools, churches and an incredible university.

Romney missed all of this.

Instead of coming to Iron County and learning about the people he will represent if elected to the U.S. Senate, he chose to take one event to brand an entire community. Then he painted the picture he wanted for the whole nation to see.

Why did it take Rolly so long to write his piece?  The Lincoln Day Dinner was held in February. My guess is that Romney’s stories have less to do with what really happened at the dinner and more about getting his feelings hurt at the Iron County convention.

Romney and his entourage ­­­really believe they are something special and anything less than red carpet treatment is looked upon by he and his family as unacceptable.

Well Mitt, here’s a reality check — in rural Utah they don’t care who you are.

When you sent your son Josh Romney to the Iron County Convention he demanded an opportunity to address the delegates. This came after the executive committee had already told your campaign that unless the candidate shows up in person, no one will be able to speak on their behalf.

Then even after the committee decided to go ahead and give Josh Romney his three minutes in the limelight — it still wasn’t good enough. He then demanded he be given special treatment to speak before they were scheduled. Evidently, the rules just don’t apply to the Romneys.

And if all of that wasn’t good enough, just minutes before he spoke Josh Romney and his entourage went around and demanded that everyone sit down to listen to him. I guess he thought attendees should have been jumping over themselves to hear him speak.

But Mitt, I’m afraid rural Utah isn’t impressed.

First you head up the ‘Never Trump” movement, only to turn around and accept President Donald Trump’s endorsement for U.S. Senate. Then you once again surprise the voters by refusing to endorse the president for 2020. Like Trump or hate trump, it doesn’t really matter. This isn’t about Trump, it’s about your hypocrisy.

So, while Rolly may hold you in high esteem despite your lack of integrity, here in rural Utah a man is still revered for decency and humility — two words you may want to check Webster’s Dictionary on.

You call yourself a Republican and flaunt conservative values in the public eye but out here in rural Utah, our BS detectors are a little better than that.

So good luck with your race. Remember, the votes in rural America made up the numbers to elect Trump to president.

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