A reference in my story yesterday (about his upcoming address to a Tea Party of Spokane rally) to the fact that Idaho Gov. Butch Otter spoke to a militia group back in 1995 has raised some questions, so I want to clarify: Though Otter spoke to the U.S. Militia Association group in Boise in March of that year, a month and a half before the Oklahoma City bombing, he did not in any way incite the bombing or encourage such actions. In fact, his message was the opposite. “If you believe in the Constitution and this Republic and what it stands for, then you must believe in the rule of law,” Otter told the group. News accounts at the time said Otter, then lieutenant governor, spoke for a few minutes about how the Republican-led state government in Idaho was pushing to reduce federal interference in state affairs, and then engaged in a sometimes heated back-and-forth with the group for the next 90 minutes.
The fact that Otter and two other state officials - then-Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa and then-Superintendent of Schools Anne Fox - had spoken to the militia group drew increased attention after the April 19, 1995 bombing, because of the bombers’ sympathies for the militia movement, though they weren’t affiliated with it. In an Associated Press story that ran in The Spokesman-Review eight days after the bombing, Otter said he spoke to U.S. Militia Association leaders to set the record straight. “They’re good people. I think they feel the way a lot of people feel,” he said then. “But I told them unless the governor made the call for their services, they’re nothing more than a gang.”