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Port: Another member of North Dakota Young Republicans apologizes for bigoted and offensive Twitter posts

I called Ethan Harsell for comment, and the District 43 candidate for state House told me the posts "do not reflect me at all," claiming that they were made when he was younger, although the examples I cited were all from within the last two years.

Ethan Harsell
Ethan Harsell is the NDGOP's candidate for state House in Grand Forks-area district 43.
Campaign photo
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MINOT, N.D. — The North Dakota Young Republicans, a group at the center of scandal over the last week thanks to bigoted posts made in a Telegram channel organized by the group, has put out a news release responding to the controversy.

In it, the group condemns "the use of degrading and harmful slurs," but the group also tries to blame the victim. They invoke the term "cancel culture" and complain about the "weaponization of labels from the media," as if the problem wasn't that members of their group were completely comfortable with homophobic slurs and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but that the public found out about those things and criticized them for it.

Nobody in the North Dakota Young Republicans is a victim.

They did this to themselves.

Making this statement ring all the more hollow is the fact that members were far more open about their bigotry than you might think.

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It wasn't just happening in the Telegram group.

Ethan Harsell is a North Dakota Young Republicans member, and a participant in the Telegram group, as well as an NDGOP candidate for the state House in District 43. When I reached him for comment for my original story about the Telegram group, Harsell, who identifies as gay, was critical of the slurs.

"Instead of calling it out it just gets ignored," he told me . "I want to isolate from them because what they said about Bouchée [sic] is how they feel about me and I don't need them in my life," he said, referring to state Rep. Josh Boschee, a Fargo Democrat and the first openly gay man to serve in North Dakota's Legislature.

Yet Harsell himself routinely uses homophobic slurs, as has been pointed out to me by many readers since my original report was published, and he's been doing it right out in public.

"I may be gay but at least I’m not a f-----," he wrote in one April 2021 Twitter post which was cached by Archive.org . "Only f------ bow down to wokeness and political correctness."

That slur is a common theme in many of his tweets. "I may be gay but at least I’m not a f-- who gives a s--- about pride month," he wrote in a June 2021 post .

"I’m disintegrating because men can’t play in women’s sports. I’ll never be able to live my life!" he wrote in a January, 2021, post . "As a gay man — I may be gay, but at least I’m not a f--."

He also mocked the transgender community for their high rates of suicide. "If being trans is normal why do they make up about 0.3 percent of the total population in the US and commit really high rates of suicide?" he wrote in an April 2021 post .

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In a July 2021 post, he made light of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. "January 6th isn’t even that bad if you look back, just mostly liberal hysteria," he wrote . "Looters should be prosecuted and trespassers should be freed."

Harsell has had plenty to say about race relations, too.

"George Floyd Died from an Overdose," he claimed in an April 2021, post .

"There will be rioting no matter what the verdict is," he wrote in a post contemporaneous to the trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin , who was ultimately convicted of crimes related to the death of George Floyd. "They want free stuff even if Chauvin is found guilty on all counts."

Ethan Harsell tweet
An April 20, 2021 message posted to NDGOP state House candidate Ethan Harsell's Twitter profile.
Screenshot

"'Racism' is a tool of social control used exclusively against conservatives," he wrote in another 2021 post . "Everyone else is allowed to openly favor their own ethnic group but people who happen to be white."

"The cop who shot Makhia Bryant is a true American Hero," he wrote in another racially inflammatory post .

And beyond the bigotry and extremism, Harsell was often wildly immature and crude, posting things far beneath the dignity of someone who would like to serve the public in elected office.

"People who want their children to have big d---- should vote Republican," he wrote in a December 2021 post .

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"Last time I checked the only amendment with 'Shall not be infringed' was the second amendment," he wrote in a March 2021 post . "'Shall not be infringed” doesn’t apply to making sure low IQ illegals can vote Democrat."

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I called Harsell for comment, and he told me the posts "do not reflect me at all," claiming that they were made when he was younger, although the examples I cited were all from within the last two years.

"280 characters do not reflect who I am," he said, referring to the character limit for Twitter posts. "I want to talk about the issues facing Grand Forks. I would like to apologize deeply for my actions. This does not reflect me as a candidate. I am not affiliated with any of those things. I was on the wrong side of the road, but I'm trying to get back on the right side of the road."

"Mental health has been extremely important to me," he continued, saying that's a part of his campaign platform, not that mental health issues contributed to his decision to make these posts. "That's the biggest issue facing North Dakota today. I condemn what I did as a young, high schooler, and I don't think that should reflect my campaign at this very moment."

He also called on Rep. Mary Adams, a Grand Forks-area Democrat, to apologize "for her social media posts." In March of 2019, Adams apologized for Facebook posts in which she compared former President Donald Trump and other Republicans to Nazis .

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Remember, Harsell's posts weren't happening in some closed messaging group where membership was moderated. They were happening right out in public. On Twitter. Where anyone can see.

Yet, clearly, nobody in the North Dakota Young Republicans seemed to have a problem with Harsell's activities. For that matter, nobody in the District 43 NDGOP seem to have a problem with it, either. He's their candidate for the state House. Either they saw these messages, and didn't care, or they didn't bother to vet their candidate thoroughly.

Both options reflect poorly on Republicans. Perrie Schafer, the chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, told me in a podcast yesterday that party leadership is reviewing the controversy around the North Dakota Young Republicans, and may disassociate itself from its candidates who are involved.

Which brings me back to the North Dakota Young Republicans news release and its superficial condemnations of bigotry.

Why should we believe that they're sorry about the bigotry in their group, when it seems very clear, based on the evidence before us, that they're only really sorry they got caught.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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