County Republicans host speaker despite calls to cancel
BEND, Ore. (AP) — Republicans in a central Oregon county proceeded with a presentation by a former FBI agent known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, despite calls from Democrats and a Muslim civil liberties organization to cancel the event.
The Deschutes County Republican Party on Tuesday hosted an hour-long speaking engagement by John Guandolo, who the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an anti-Muslim extremist, The Bulletin reported .
Prior to the event, the Oregon Democratic Party and the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Republicans to drop the speech and asked the Republican candidates for governor to condemn the event.
Of the three Republican candidates, only Bend businessman Sam Carpenter attended. Carpenter said Guandolo’s speech seemed to match what he has experienced while on business abroad.
“The Islamic threat is real,” Carpenter said. “We need to start paying attention.”
State Rep. Knute Buehler and motivational speaker Greg Wooldridge did not attend.
Guandolo, who worked for the FBI from 1996 to 2008, hosts seminars for law enforcement organizations and other groups on what he describes as “jihadi threats.”
Patti Adair, the chairwoman of the county Republican Party, said she stood by the invitation for Guandolo to speak, but she didn’t previously know about Guandolo’s reputation.
“I think it’s always good to hear both sides,” Adair said.
Paul DeWitt, the vice chairman of the county Republican Party, said Guandolo is a “realist” with experience in the field.
“He’s certainly not a right-wing ogre the way the Southern Poverty Law Center describes him,” DeWitt said. “He’s an expert on the threat of radical Islam. If that makes him an Islamophobe, then I’m Islamaphobic too.”
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com