A video showing Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero and Ramtha School of Enlightenment president JZ Knight has caused a stir among both political parties, as well as the community.
Footage from a candidate forum involving Romero appears to have been spliced with footage from a different event involving Knight making derogatory and profane remarks about the Catholic Church.
Romero said a member of the Ramtha School warned her about the video circulating online before Tuesday’s commissioner meeting.
“They wanted to tell me that the rail against the Catholic Church had to do with … the pedophile priests … and the cover-up by some of the archdioceses,” Romero said. “That’s what they told me.”
Rob Wynne, a public relations consultant employed by the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, said in a statement Tuesday, “The quotes were taken out of context and not meant to disparage Catholics. The comments were meant to draw attention to the abuses and subsequent cover-ups of the Catholic Church and not intended to criticize any individuals of any persuasion. JZ Knight has always supported the rights of the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community including marriage equality and legal benefits.”
Romero said she hadn’t viewed the video until Tuesday afternoon.
The state Democratic Party says it does not condone the profane comments that the Yelm-based spiritual leader made in a videotaped talk this year, but the party will not return an estimated $60,000 that Knight gave it.
State Republican Party chairman Kirby Wilbur put out a news release Monday that asked Democratic chairman Dwight Pelz to return the money. He pointed to video of Knight speaking out against Catholics, in which she says, “I take your (expletive) faith on,” and making references to homosexuals and Jews.
Republicans say a third party posted the video, which was edited to splice footage of Romero between segments of Knight’s ranting.
Wilbur said Romero should give back donations from Knight for her re-election bid. A search of state Public Disclosure Commission records showed Romero received donations from Knight and the school in the primary and general election amounting to $3,600.
“This video that was recently posted online is nothing short of repulsive. JZ Knight is an intolerant bigot and Sandra Romero is either ignorant of her views or shares them,” Wilbur said in his news release. “Which is it, Sandra? I am personally disgusted by the sickening things uttered by Knight on the tape. She is anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, vulgar and profane.”
Concerning the campaign contributions, Wynne said: “JZ Knight is a private citizen and like, all Americans, has the right to support the candidates of her choice. JZ Knight is very concerned about the choices in this election, nationally, statewide and locally. She supports the rights of women, the poor, the elderly, the middle class and the environment. JZ has publicly urged hundreds of thousands of people on the importance of voting this year and she supports an honest and open election where all citizens have the right to vote.”
Democratic Party spokesman Benton Strong distanced the party from Knight’s comments, but said Democrats would not give back the money.
“We obviously don’t condone the kind of divisive language that is seen here. The other thing that we don’t condone is the kind of divisive policy positions taken by the (state Republican Party) – their discriminatory policies against marriage equality, which is the same position taken by Rob McKenna, their candidate for governor,” Strong said.
“We think it is unfortunate that Kirby would resort to these kinds of attacks instead of talking about the issues facing our candidates and the voters,” Strong added.
Republican Party spokeswoman Meredith Kenny said the video was filmed in February and that the Romero footage was taped later. Romero said she spoke at a candidate forum at the school in September.
PDC data show that Knight also contributed $1,800 to Democrat Bruce Lachney, who is running for Senate against Republican Sen. Randi Becker in the 2nd Legislative District. Knight also contributed $1,800 to Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens, who is running unopposed for re-election.
Asked about the contributions Tuesday, Lachney said in an email: “The Wilburs, O’Reillys and Limbaughs of the world are actors looking for an audience. I generally do not respond to their comments; it doesn’t get us any closer to solving problems.”
Romero said she has “way over 500” individual donations to her campaign, and that they average $70 per donation.
“How I know of JZ is because she is a Yelm figure and has been in the community for over 25 years and has always had good environmental ethics,” Romero said.
“If it’s verified and there is definitely prejudice involved, I may consider (giving the money back),” Romero said. “I want to get the facts on this … You have to really hear from all sides.”
Romero hadn’t met Knight or seen Ramtha School until the candidate forum. She and Lachney spoke there.
“It was nice. There was no smoke – nobody railing and screaming,” Romero said.Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 email@example.com