BOISE – Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin said Friday that a photo she posted on Facebook of herself with members of an anti-government group is her way of showing support for another man who is in federal prison for traveling across state lines to aid in extortion.
But McGeachin, a Republican, deleted Thursday’s post showing her in front of her office with two men dressed in orange prison outfits with the name ENGEL across their chests.
Todd Engel last summer was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in a 2014 standoff near the Nevada ranch of anti-government activist Cliven Bundy. He was found guilty of obstruction and traveling across state lines in aid of extortion.
McGeachin in the post appears to make a heart sign and in the caption reads: “Sending love to Todd Engel from the Idaho Capitol …”
The two unidentified men in the photo are flashing hand signs indicating an association with the III Percenters, considered an anti-government group.
“The photo was intended to show support for Engel and nothing more,” she wrote. “No other messages were intended in this photo.”
McGeachin in the statement said Engel was treated unjustly by the court system “for standing up for our fundamental rights as Americans.”
She did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press on whether she supports or opposes the III Percenters.
It was not clear Friday whether she could face disciplinary action.
“The Governor’s Office plans to discuss the matter with Lt. Governor McGeachin before making public comment,” the office of the Republican Gov. Brad Little said in an email to The Associated Press.
It was not clear whether Little and McGeachin spoke on Friday.
McGeachin is an Idaho Falls businesswoman who also served several terms as a state representative from 2002 to 2012. As lieutenant governor, she also serves as governor when the elected governor is out of the state. It’s a part-time position where the impact largely depends on the relationship between the governor and the lieutenant governor.
Senate Democrats issued a statement saying McGeachin’s Facebook post caused some constituents to fear coming to the Statehouse.
“Whatever the intention of the post, the impact has resonated negatively across the state,” the statement said.
Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill said he had not yet talked to McGeachin about the post.
“Certainly we’ve got to take into account the dignity of the Senate,” he said. “The institution is what we’ve got to protect here.”
Republican Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, in her 10th term in the Senate, expressed surprise after being told about the post.
“Oh my God,” Lodge said. “I would call that a slip in judgment.”
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