All I really knew about Steven Rogers when I saw this tweet was he was a commissioner for Nutley Township in New Jersey, and he was a political operative who had met President Trump and was enthusiastic about him. OK, I also knew that a lot of people ridiculed Rogers on Nutley-related pages on Facebook. He was often portrayed as a bit of a suck up who cared more for advancing his position within the Republican Party than doing his job for the people of Nutley.
I cared about Nutley because that's where our daughter and her family live. If there's one thing I'm passionate about, it's our children and grandchildren having a safer, better America than what we have right now. So, when I saw the tweet posted above on the Nutley Citizens Community Facebook page, along with the page asking for comments, I decided, against the background of the El Paso Walmart massacre, the Dayton (Toledo?) massacre, the drive-by shooting in Chicago, the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting, to state the obvious - we're all in danger.
The first thing about Rogers' tweet I noticed was his use of the subjective and denigrating "crying" to apply toward those who seek gun control measures. For those of us who use language as our workplace tool, that use of "crying" implies disrespect and dismissal. In essence, those whiners who are crying about gun control, etc. It puts down those who don't agree with Rogers and who think gun control might actually be a relevant topic for discussion.
My comment was in response to Rogers' tweet, its use of "crying," and was made after reading about a victim of the El Paso shooting getting shot in the chest. I made the comment on Sunday, August 4 at 9:44 a.m. our time.
"I don't live in Nutley. Our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren do. Rogers is right that there needs to be more than gun control for a complete solution. He is wrong in believing gun control is not part of the solution. Reinstate the national assault weapons ban, put in place universal background checks, and close the various loopholes for gun purchases without background checks, and that will help. Go after the small percentage of gun stores and sellers who funnel weapons to criminals and shut them down. Clamp down on 4chan and 8chan where mass killers are treated like celebrities and others are urged to top their kill counts.
"Nothing is going to completely stop all gun violence in this country. There's simply far too many guns (more guns than people, actually), to stop every mass shooting. But Rogers should know by now that he and his family and friends are not immune to this violence. We're not "crying" gun control. We're demanding it. The next time he goes to Walmart, he could wind up in the aisle crying with a bullet hole through his chest. That's our reality now. We're all just waiting our turn."
I had one person argue with me a bit on the post, and I responded, "Rebecca Shirley yeah, there are real people with holes in their chests right now, thanks to Trump - and the idiots who rationalize and condone his conduct." She went on to state that the Dayton shooter had liked Elizabeth Warren - a point some on the right oddly find equivalent to how some shooters have used Trump talking points as central pillars of their justification to commit mass murder. Trump routinely has denigrated immigrants, and has referred to migrants coming to our border as an invasion - things that have shown up in manifestos and motivations of those who commit massacres. It isn't that someone likes Trump and thus they kill. It's that they buy into Trump's divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric. If the Dayton killer was influenced by Elizabeth Warren's rhetoric in the same way the El Paso killer mimicked Trump's, he would have probably paid off someone's student loan or got them healthcare. He wouldn't have shot them.
Virtually nobody said my comment was out of line or threatening. That's because it wasn't. It was a statement that we need to do things to stop the random slaughter and gun violence that is wreaking havoc in our country, and that we all need to realize that it's not some abstract problem that will only impact other people - it can happen to us. any of us - Rogers, me, our grandchildren - virtually everyone we love and care about can be impacted.
So, other than that one individual, there was no more discussion on my comment, and I totally forgot about it. Until today, August 8, that is.
This morning, I was out on my morning walk with our cat. We go with her when she goes for walks in the desert because even though she fancies herself as a Mojave Sand Leopard, she still needs a bodyguard when the coyotes and roaming dogs come around.
A phone call came through to my phone from a New Jersey number, and I didn't answer. After all, it was only 6:55 a.m. I figured it was some kind of robocall or scam. I routinely receive several of these a day. It wasn't. It was a guy from Newark who left me a message about a story in the Washington Examiner and Steven Rogers and me, and he sounded like he had had some problems or issues with Rogers before and wanted to share them. This was a puzzling message.
After our walk, I made breakfast for my wife and I (the cat had long since been fed - tuna - her favorite), and then I thought I would check this out. I found the Washington Examiner story by Paul Bedard, published on August 4, at around 6:11 p.m. my time: Trump defender threatened with 'bullet hole through his chest.'" I had to read the story to understand what it had to do with me.
A Trump adviser with 38 years in law enforcement, who appeared on Fox to dismiss charges that the president hasn’t done enough to stop mass shootings, said that he has been threatened and the FBI and U.S. Secret Service are on the case.
Navy reservist and former FBI terrorist task force member Steven Rogers, after appearing on Fox yesterday, was threatened on a blog by a man who said he could be shot “with a bullet hole through his chest. That’s our reality now. We’re all just waiting our turn.”
Rogers, speaking to Secrets from his Nutley, New Jersey home, said, “this could be a trigger, what he wrote. Maybe this guy Rogers should be shot. This is serious.”
OK, so first off, I don't watch Fox, so I had no idea about anything having to do with him being on Fox, and could have cared less. Second, as this was four days later and I hadn't heard peep one from the FBI or Secret Service - or for that matter Bedard, who could have easily contacted me to ask what my comments meant if he couldn't have deciphered them himself, which he should have been able to do. Even if, as a journalist, which I have been for nearly 40 years. had thought that there could somehow be a threat in those comments, it would be a stretch to arrive at them being some kind of direct threat. As an editor, I'd fire someone who ran with a libelous story that labeled someone as having made a threat to shoot someone without doing the basic fundamentals of journalism - contact the source. Please note - if I had actually written a direct threat and it was extremely clear what was meant, then there's not as much of a need to follow up and get my side of the story. But it was quite the leap to decide what I had written about needing more measure to ensure the public's safety, not less, and how we are all vulnerable to random gun violence, somehow equated to me threatening Rogers, something I had no intention of doing, and had not done.
It's interesting that Rogers or his staff had latched onto my comment as a threat. That could be for several reasons. One, he could be jumpy after all the shootings and violence taking place in our country. Yeah, that's my point Rogers - we're all jumpy because we're realizing it could happen to us at any time. Or, he could want to push the left-is-violent-I'm-a-victim narrative, which is popular on the right these days. This comes as the right makes ploys to have Antifa - a group with no official membership (thereby you can accuse anyone of being in Antifa and there isn't proof one way or another), as a domestic terror organization (making it easy to oppress opposition by threatening everyone who opposes you with being charged as a member or supporter/sympathizer of terrorists), and seeks to ramp up prison sentences for those who protest things like pipeline construction (with proposed sentences of up to 20 years in prison). All of this can be seen as an attempt to stifle free speech and opposition to right wing agendas, and as being highly authoritarian in nature.
I'm going with Rogers is concerned for his safety, which we all should be at this point. I remember a time in America when I wasn't. When I didn't worry about our grandchildren going to school, when I didn't worry about our kids going to work or out for entertainment. But we live in an America where random gun violence can strike anyone, and those who "represent" us don't seem willing or able to do much to stop it. It is frustrating. And scary. And I agree with Rogers that we need criminal justice reform, enhanced mental health care, and community policing. I disagree that de-politicizing it is what Rogers intends. I think he's most definitely using the issue in a political manner, but I agree with those three points. I just think they're likely to take a long time if implemented to see positive results, that they're likely to not be funded appropriately, and that there could be a lack of follow-through to ensure they are implemented effectively. Gun control measures, as part of the approach toward resolving the problem could, however, be implemented quickly, and we could begin reducing gun violence and deaths.
On Fox, after the shootings, he dismissed the charges against the president and said that Trump has “done a lot” to combat racism and help police.
But that prompted Californian Steve Brown to suggest on Facebook that Rogers will be the next with a bullet in the chest, apparently upset that Rogers said more gun control won’t stop cases like El Paso. He even knew where Rogers lived.
No, his appearance on Fox didn't prompt me to do anything since I wasn't aware of it. All I was aware of was the Nutley Citizen's Community Facebook post asking for our comments.
And I'm still trying to figure out where I said Rogers will be "the next with a bullet in the chest." Can't journalists read for comprehension anymore? What part of "The next time he goes to Walmart, he could wind up in the aisle crying with a bullet hole through his chest. That's our reality now. We're all just waiting our turn.” says that a) Rogers is next, and, b) I'm going to shoot him? Because I look at that comment, and maybe I'm wrong, but I see me referencing an existing shooting, and saying it could happen to him - and the rest of us. That's OUR reality now. WE'RE all just waiting OUR turn."
Oh, and to clear up another erroneous statement in the story - I have no idea where Rogers lives. All I know is that it is likely somewhere in Nutley as he is a commissioner there. I could care less.
I would dispute Rogers' statement, “This is not an overreaction,” he said. “This is a real concern.” But then, as a citizen in today's climate of random gun violence and massacres at shopping centers, local festivals, nightclub districts, churches and synagogues, concerts, schools, etc., etc., we should all be concerned. For real. What I object to is a so-called Washington insider masquerading as a journalist who is likely a friend of Rogers (he's the only one who ran with the story, and he ran with it the same day as my comment, so there's most definitely a personal connection for him to have published the story that evening on a Sunday), not caring whether he covered the fundamentals of his job, and not caring whether he got the story right, and not caring whether he labeled me - a concerned grandfather wanting a less violent future for his grandchildren - as some kind of potential assassin. As if that kind of irresponsible reporting is going to help anything other than push a political agenda.
But wait. That's what he wanted to do, right Bedard?
Unfortunately, some additional "news" sites jumped on the bandwagon, essentially plagiarizing Bedard's erroneous story. Again, though it was exceptionally easy to contact me, nobody tried. This is (at least right wing) journalism today - no fact checking, no reaching out to ensure you've got your facts correct. Libel away.
This morning, I sent out email letters to the editorial staff of the Washington Examiner, as well as the other copy cat sites, along with the Nutley Police Department, and Rogers himself. I have had only one response.
BizPac Review was one of those copy cat websites that tries its best to sound like real journalists while not actually engaging in journalistic best practices.
Rogers reportedly informed the FBI and Secret Service of the threat that was posted to Facebook on Sunday by an account registered to Steve Brown, who lives in California.
Taking exception to Rogers’ stance on gun control, the post was shared on the Nutley Community page. Nutley is the New Jersey township where Rogers lives, according to the Washington Examiner.
I love the "account registered to Steve Brown" which has a link to my Facebook profile. Uh, guys, you could have sent me a message. You didn't. All you did was copy the Washington Examiner. We call that plagiarism.
But at least BizPac responded to my letter:
After reading your Facebook post multiple times, I do feel that in today’s environment, when Trump supporters get beaten in the streets, your language was inflammatory and could be construed as a threat, and even a call to action to the deranged among us.
You may not have intended to sound threatening, but you did. I take you at your word that was not your intent, and I’ll have an update added to our post noting your objection and clarifying your intent, as soon as I have an editor back on duty.
We live in dangerous times, and it was not clear at all that you didn’t intend your words to be threatening, but we do not practice shoddy journalism, and while I understand you’re upset, we would both be better off dealing with this in a more collegial manner.
Note Furnari's concern for all the Trump supporters being beaten in the streets, while not a peep about all the people gunned down as they go about their everyday life. He also takes exception to my noting that nobody bothered to contact me and that they plagiarized their entire story as "shoddy" journalism. Uh, it is, Jack. It may be your normal, but it's still pretty shoddy. I mean, you're so concerned about the implications of my comments made on social media, but you're not concerned about labeling me as some kind of potential political assassin, with a direct link to my Facebook profile, and the possibility an overly enthusiastic Trump supporter could take things into their own hands to deal with me and my family. No concern there at all. And none for even getting the story right.
As of just a few minutes ago, two hours after Jack's message to me, the story remains unchanged. I still have not heard from the FBI or Secret Service (who have real threats to manage, I would imagine). I have not heard from the Washington Examiner or another online site that ran a plagiarized version of the story. I have not heard from Rogers, and it appears the Nutley Police Department did call me during lunch (my phone was charging - it's been acting up as far as battery life is concerned), but didn't leave a message.
Here is the link to the Washington Examiner story:
The BizPac story:
The Nutley Citizens Community Page post on Facebook:
This is the organization run by Steven Rogers:
I will post updates as they occur, and have screen shots of all of this material for reference.
August 9, 2019 Update: As of this morning, BizPac Review has not updated their story to include my comments, despite assurances from the president of the company. No response has been received from the Washington Examiner staff, or Rogers himself.
I have spoken today with Detective Swift from the Nutley Police Department who was calling in response to the email I had sent the police chief, explaining this story. We had a good conversation and he was urging us to immediately let them know if any threats were directed at our family as a result of this media coverage.
August 11, 2019 Update: The BizPac Review story (link above) has been updated to include some, not all, of my comments to BizPac and the Washington Examiner, along with their, uh, insight.
In a letter to the Examiner that Brown shared with BizPac Review, he said Rogers “decided to take my comments clearly out of context to make himself a potential victim.”
He accused Rogers of “purposefully misusing my comments… as a way to bring attention to himself.”
Brown’s Facebook profile identifies him as a “journalist,” and his page shows he is a rabid critic of President Trump, the Republican Party and the NRA. He buys into the the left-wing narrative of white supremacy terrorism … which would make him a typical Democrat, though his party status is unknown.
That's BizPac's idea of setting the record straight - minimizing my nearly 40 years as a journalist, and using subjective language, like "rabid," to describe my opposition to the right. Meanwhile, they couldn't be bothered to ask my political party affiliation, continuing their ongoing lazy approach toward "journalism." To apply the term "hacks" to them would be a use of subjective language, but would also be justifiable.
It also appears that the Washington Examiner may have removed this story from their social media feeds, though their online story remains unchanged and I have received no response from any of the editorial staff or the author of the story.
Unlike Rogers, who has also not responded to my emailed letter to him of August 8, I'm not interested in being a victim, so I began responding directly to the story wherever I have found it on social media, including on the Nutley Citizens Community Facebook page - the site of my original comments. I found many locals there saw through Rogers ploy, and noted it. Others do not appear to have a good opinion of Rogers.
"Personally i didn’t find what was said to be a threat - many of us want to ban the weapons of war - there’s no reason to own an assault rifle- they should be banned and collected and destroyed."
"Rogers and his ilk are a threat to all good people - i think he should have to pay for his own “protection” and for his lies (defamation and slander)."
"That was not a threat, that was a hypothetical. It could be any of us at any time. Steve Rogers is desperately trying to stay relevant by feeding his own ego. He’s a media whore."
"I think all of us who read your comment on the other page understood exactly what you were saying and certainly didn't see if as some kind of threat. Did any law enforcement officers contact you about that Facebook post?"
"That was in no way a threat!!! Oh please! Hey Rogers.. grow a set!"
"I think we have a problem with a commissioner, for starters."
"The problem is how easily and cheaply purchased politicians are by different lobbies, this one in particular being the NRA."
"Maybe worry about the grieving families that are crying before you add it to your talking points. What a dick."
"Rogers is a shill for the NRA."
"Gun control is definitely part of the solution. This guy’s a tool."
"He’s a disgusting human. I’m embarrassed that he represents this town."
"Completely agree. Awful."
"Nothing like doubling down on insanity the day after a couple of mass murders."
"Doesn’t he work for the trump campaign? It was a trump supporter that did this. If it was a Muslim that did this, I wonder what his stance would be? "The fact of the Matter is trump holds these rallies working up the crazy side of his base, then they go out on a killing spree, and everyone is like blame mental illness. Trumps America’s mental illness, and I blame him."
"Mr. Rogers, this is EXACTLY the time to start politicizing this. Innocents lost their lives because of guns. Look at other countries and how they’ve handled gun control. England and Australia to name a few. It does work. Stop sending messages out that you think will appeal to a certain percentage of the population and start getting REAL about gun violence in our country."
"Yes, My. Rogers, I'm literally crying for gun control!"
"Thoughts and prayers don't solve the problem. Neither does blood money from the NRA."
"We are the laughingstock of the world because we can’t get out of their grip of the gun lobbyists!"
"The GOP-Trump shootings have got to stop. The crime spree is a function of the paranoid delusional, self serving conservatives seeking an impossible perfection, in order to satisfy their compulsion to "fix" other peoples behavior, by oppressing, depressing, denigrating, marginalizing, and killing them. They are looking in all the wrong places. The problem can clearly seen in the their mirrors. All they need to do is wipe off the fog of self service, self grandeur, and arrogance, and it will be staring them in the face. You can't fix America, or even keep it great, if order is defined as as a product of the oppression, repression, hate, fear, greed, jealousy, bigotry, vengeance, death, and destruction that underlies all policy and doctrine of the modern GOP. Sure the dirty, evil liberals seek progress, change, and aspiration, by taking folks out of poverty, supporting folks in old life after years of service to the country, and by continuously trying to find ways to insure that every American has the opportunity, and ability to be both self sufficient, and finding a life inside the law, but the fact is no one is oppressed, repressed, killed or destroyed by any of that. The bottom line is that: giving a little is much more fiscally, and socially conservative than taking a lot, and, as the worst of human history (and all legitimate religion) has shown, oppression, repression, hate, fear, greed, jealousy, bigotry, death, and destruction, only creates problems, not fix them."
"Tell your Republican President to do what you wrote above, Steven Rogers. What progress has he made on ANY of those points??"
Rogers, meanwhile, has shown that he's not at all interested in having a non-political discussion about gun control. His Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Rogers4America takes you down a rabbit hole into the far right world of those who hope to profit from Trump's success.
"Dem/socialists want no part of being reasonable & using common sense with regard to gun violence. They want to get rid of 2A. That won’t happen! @realDonaldTrump is taking a reasonable, common sense approach in addressing this issue. He is also protecting 2A. More to come. #MAGA "
"If you see questionable statements or violent rhetoric, it’s not your role to discern intent. It’s not your job to figure out what the person really meant, or whether a statement constitutes a direct threat to your life or the lives of others. It’s your job to report it. -SR"
"Americans awakened! We were tired of being used & disrespected. We were tired of corruption & empty promises. We r now strong, prayerful, United, & PROUD TO BE AMERICANS. Thanks to @realDonaldTrump#MAGA "
Comments on his Facebook post about being "threatened."
"Steve, sorry to read you were threatened, very scary. God bless, hope the FBI is interviewing this guy right now!"
"I'm very worried about this threat and so dam tired of nuts! Any threat must be taken seriously and we must report them. You are a role model Steven Rogers and I love you. . Fellow warrior!"