OLYMPIA, Wash. – As calls grow for Republicans in Olympia to oust Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) from their ranks, the top Republican in the House of Representatives has pledged a fact-finding investigation.
House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm) told Q13 News in an interview that aired Friday that he is committed to finding out the truth about Shea, who was accused in back-to-back articles in The Guardian of surrounding himself with violent right-wing extremists and participating in a chat room where other users were discussing violence against political enemies.
“I’m going to do an honest job of understanding the truth and then we’ll figure out if there is something to take action on and what the action would be,” Rep. Wilcox said.
He suggested it could be a “months-long” process.
The Washington State Democratic Party scoffed at the timeline.
State Democrats have argued that there is little left to understand about Shea, who has a documented history of extreme behavior.
The Eastern Washington Republican has made headlines in the past for calling members of the press (whom he regularly and preemptively blocks on social media) “dirty, godless, hateful people.” He also pulled a loaded gun during a road rage incident back in 2011.
In an article published Thursday, The Guardian’s Jason Wilson revealed new audio tapes that point to the type of political extremism Shea is accused of surrounding himself with.
Washington state Republican representative Matt Shea and several associates regaled an audience with conspiracy theories, separatist visions and exhortations for listeners to arm themselves ahead of a looming civil war, at a gathering at a remote religious compound in the north-east of the state last year.
In recordings obtained by the Guardian, Shea and Jack Robertson, also known as radio personality John Jacob Schmidt, invoked their visions and fears of a violent leftist revolt in speeches at the 2018 God and Country event in Marble.
The Guardian last week published leaked chat records in which Shea and Robertson were revealed to have discussed the use of surveillance, “psyops” and violence against liberal and leftist activists.
Asked this week whether he liked Matt Shea, Rep. Wilcox avoided a personal response, instead calling him “a pretty competent legislator."
“There are things to like about Matt. He and I probably are not that close politically,” Wilcox said. “But he's been elected by 130,000 people and many of them have found something to like about Matt."
Wilcox said he found the conversations in the chatroom reported by The Guardian to be “reprehensible,” but noted that the language was used by others, not Shea.
“Matt was accused of being in the chatroom at the time those things were said and not responding to them,” he said. “We need to understand was he really there at the time and then also discover to what extent we are responsible for what other people say.”
The suggestion that Shea could be an innocent third party in a chatroom full of right-wing extremists elicited an incredulous response from the State Democratic Party: “Really.”