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Defiant Rammell refuses to apologize

Rex Rammell, GOP candidate for governor of Idaho, refuses to apologize for remarks about getting a hunting tag to hunt for President Obama, during a press conference in Boise on Tuesday. At left is NPR reporter Don Wimberly. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Rex Rammell, GOP candidate for governor of Idaho, refuses to apologize for remarks about getting a hunting tag to hunt for President Obama, during a press conference in Boise on Tuesday. At left is NPR reporter Don Wimberly. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
BOISE - A defiant Rex Rammell refused to apologize today for his joking remarks about buying hunting tags to shoot President Obama, and instead accused top Idaho Republican leaders of conspiring to sabotage his run for governor by strongly condemning his remarks. “They’re trying to ruin my run to be the governor,” Rammell declared at a press conference across from the state Capitol. At a Republican barbecue in Twin Falls last week, during a discussion about wolf hunting tags, a woman in the audience shouted out “Obama tags,” and Rammell responded, “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” Widely reported, his remark prompted a storm of criticism from GOP leaders at home, as well as talk across the nation. Rammell is from Rexburg, the same eastern Idaho town where after last year’s election, elementary school children riding home on a school bus chanted, “assassinate Obama,” prompting statewide consternation and a public apology from the town’s mayor. “There’s an underlying animosity to Obama and his policies,” Rammell said. “I think it comes out in these comments.” But, he said, “I meant nothing by it. … I wasn’t serious, and it didn’t even start with me. It would’ve been rude for me to condemn the lady for saying it - this country needs to lighten up.” Instead of lightening up, however, Rammell launched his own attacks against top Idaho GOP leaders and office-holders, accusing Gov. Butch Otter of “betraying the conservative movement” and calling his appointment of popular GOP state Sen. Brad Little as the state’s lieutenant governor “unforgivable;” criticizing Congressman Mike Simpson for “literally selling Idaho and America down the road” through votes in Congress; and bashing former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, who also is a former state GOP chairman, for “idly standing by while the federal government was dropping wolves on our big game herds in 1995.” Rammell is a veterinarian and former elk rancher with a big grudge against former Idaho Gov. Jim Risch, now a U.S. senator, for ordering his escaped elk shot to avoid possible harm to Idaho’s wild elk herds. Risch, like the rest of Idaho’s congressional delegation, has strongly condemned Rammell’s remarks about hunting the president. “I’ll tell you the main reason that I won’t apologize, is because of the over-the-top comments by the GOP leaders,” Rammell declared. “I am not sorry for saying the comment - I am sorry that some people took it incorrectly.” Two citizens, both dressed casually in shorts and both of whom decided separately to show up, attended Rammell’s press conference, but he refused to take any questions from them. One, Mike Reineck, an Air Force retiree with a long, gray ponytail, said he wanted to see if Rammell had any supporters who’d show up; none did. The other, Brad Cozzens of Eagle, said, “I’m an Idaho resident who’s a lifelong Republican, who finds Mr. Rammell to be an embarrassment.” Cozzens, 45, a stay-at-home dad, said he heard Rammell on a local talk radio station make a comment he took as anti-Hispanic, and he called in to protest it to no avail. “I don’t see how anyone can take a joke about licensing the assassination of the president in any manner except highly offensive,” said Cozzens. “I don’t like Obama much, and I find it highly offensive.” Norm Semanko, chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, issued a statement calling Rammell’s criticisms of state GOP leaders “a ridiculous and desperate publicity stunt,” and saying, “I call upon Rex Rammell to take responsibility for his actions and apologize for his remarks as Rammell’s comments do not reflect the views of Idaho Republicans.”
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