The Greene County GOP was in the media spotlight last week, though not, perhaps, for a welcome reason.
Ponch McPhee, editor of the party’s monthly newsletter, was dismissed after a particularly fiery piece he wrote earlier this spring drew national attention.
In the newsletter’s March issue, McPhee wrote that the upcoming presidential election was crucial for the nation’s future, and that “we shall not have any coarse [sic] but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November.”
After advocacy group People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch blog drew attention to the newsletter, the Huffington Post and other national media sites picked up the story. McPhee then spoke up, calling the response “media hype” and saying he meant the statement as a metaphor: “Yes, arm yourself with many voices for the people and by the people,” he wrote in a follow-up piece on the county GOP’s website.
His response and the link to his controversial newsletter were promptly removed from the site, and soon after, newly appointed Greene County Republican Committee Chair Gary E. Lowe posted a letter online saying the militant statement came from “the former newsletter editor” and reflected “the musing of one person, not the party.”
While Lowe, who is also the mayor of Stanardsville, made it clear his fellow Greene Republicans don’t intend to take up arms against the government, he did offer an attempt at an explanation.
“Perhaps the author was borrowing from Thomas Jefferson who wrote, ‘The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms, is as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government,’” Lowe said.
McPhee may have been stripped of his newsletter duties, but he still has a voice locally. He hosts a public affairs show on UVA’s WTJU radio station called “Freedom Watch” from 5:30 to 6 am Saturdays, and station manager Nathan Moore said he intends to keep working with McPhee.
“On WTJU’s airwaves, Ponch has never made statements anywhere near as problematic as the newsletter article that he penned,” Moore said in an email. “Unless on-air actions or statements violate station or University policies, we don’t censor our volunteers’ free expression in their personal lives, even if we strongly disagree with their opinions.”