Eye on Boise: GOP candidate says his anti-Muslim post was ‘cagefighter staged hysteria’

Screen capture from a Facebook post by Idaho GOP legislative candidate Kevin Rhoades. (Idaho Statesman)
Kevin Rhoades (Facebook)

A GOP legislative candidate in Boise is insisting he’s no racist after he deleted a Facebook post that used an anti-Muslim slur.

“The only thing I posted was about an ex-teammate,” Kevin Rhoades told the Idaho Press. “I was a pro cage fighter. … It was a disgruntled teammate.”

Rhoades’ post said he was “happy to delete another American hating muzzie,” referring to blocking the ex-teammate on his Facebook page, adding, “Of course he lives here and benefits from our great nations (sic) tax benefits. But he hates people like you. His book teaches him to.”

The Idaho Statesman reported Friday that Rhoades deleted the post following media inquiries, explaining, “Apparently my last post was a bit too much for the socialist left.”

The post drew the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy and civil rights organization, which called on the Idaho Republican Party to disavow the candidate and his comments.

“With the rise of Donald Trump and his empowerment of Islamophobes, white supremacists and racists of all stripes, we have witnessed a related spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies by political candidates, public officials and policy-makers,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR national communications director. He called on the Idaho GOP to “repudiate this use of bigoted slurs to target an American religious minority.”

The Idaho Republican Party, in a statement, noted that Rhoades and the ex-teammate exchanged insults. “We appreciate CAIR bringing this to our attention,” the party statement said. “It’s obvious both men used language that was highly uncivil and disrespectful to each other as well as offensive to many other Americans. We condemn this type of language and dialogue.”

Rhoades, who is challenging Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, said, “I have a half-black daughter and I have a Mexican grandfather. I hear that somebody is trying to pin me as a racist and it’s just not true.

“I don’t make any racial slurs to anybody. … I touch controversial issues. We do that with the intention of getting people to speak. … I just throw something out there and I let ’em talk.”

Most of Rhoades’ posts on his Facebook page are supportive of President Trump.

Rhoades wrote on his page Friday afternoon that his deleted comments were aimed at “an ex-teammate turned rival when I left that team. This is simply cagefighter ‘staged hysteria’ and it worked.”

District 17 currently is represented solely by Democrats. Chew is a sixth-term incumbent.

Malek hosts fundraiser for former foe

Idaho state Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress this year, hosted a fundraiser last week for his former foe in the primary, GOP primary winner and former Idaho state Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian.

“I believe that the folks who helped me out in the primary need a good relationship with their congressman, and I have faith that Russ will be a good congressman,” Malek said, “and I want to make sure that those who supported me know that I’m also supporting Russ and I want to help him get elected.”

Fulcher faces Democrat Cristina McNeil, three independents and two third-party candidates in November in the race for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District seat. It’s an open seat, as current fourth-term GOP Rep. Raul Labrador ran unsuccessfully for governor in the primary rather than seeking re-election.

Malek placed third in a seven-way GOP primary race, which Fulcher won with 43.1 percent of the vote. Former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy placed second with 15.5 percent; Malek drew 14.3 percent. The other candidates, in order by finish, were state Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa; North Idaho author Michael Snyder; recently retired Lt. Col. Alex Gallegos of Nampa; and Nick Henderson of Post Falls.

McNeil won a three-way Democratic primary with 69.7 percent of the vote. She easily defeated rivals James Vandermaas and Michael W. Smith. McNeil is a real estate agent who has chaired the Idaho Democratic Party Latino Caucus.

The 1st District congressional seat has been in Republican hands since Labrador defeated Democratic congressman Walt Minnick in 2010.

Malek, an attorney and third-term state representative, held the fundraiser on the patio of his law firm’s office in Coeur d’Alene. It was co-hosted by Malek and his wife, Tara, with lead sponsorship from GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, who made a financial contribution but didn’t attend. Attendees were charged $100 per person; sponsors, $500.

With the primary over and no re-election race to prepare for this fall, Malek said he’s been “very focused on our law firm.” He and Tara both are attorneys at the firm of Smith+Malek, which also has seven other attorneys. The firm has offices in Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint and Boise.

“We’ve got a lot going on – we’re having fun,” Malek said. “It’s nice to be able to travel the state without having to worry about whether I have enough signs up or whether I’ve raised enough money. So just focused on working and enjoying our state.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do the things I love. During the Legislature I don’t get to ski, and campaign season always falls during hunting season. So I’m content to live life for a while, while I figure out what I want to do next in terms of public service.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.