A Greeley, CO school board member and radio station owner has come under fire for airing an editorial denouncing Martin Luther King Jr Day. And now, his concealed weapon permit has been yanked after he threatened a rival station owner to a "shootout."
Brett Reese is airing the controversial editorial four times daily -- up from two -- on his station KELS-FM 104.7. He is unapologetic that portions of the editorial that call King a "plastic god," a "sexual degenerate," and "an America hating communist" appear verbatim on a website with links to a white supremacist group.
But those statement aren't the only inflammatory remarks allegedly coming from Resse. Local law enforcement had to step in during an economic war of sorts between Resse and a rival -- a war which allegedly led to a threatening phone call.
According to the Denver Post, Resse threatened KFKA-AM 1310 owner Justin Sasso on Wednesday with a "shootout" (via a phone message) if Sasso's advertising reps didn't stop calling businesses that support Reese's station.
That prompted Sasso to file a restraining order, which then led to the suspension of Resse's permit on Thursday. The permit suspension is not surprising in Colorado -- restraining orders are grounds for denial of a permit -- and the suspension only lasts until a January 21 court appearance determines if it becomes permanent.
Additionally, the local deputy who served Resse with the restraining order and confiscated his permit told Reese he could continue to carry his weapon, just not concealed. Resse, however, told the local Greely Tribune that he refuses to carry his weapon without the permit. He also dismissed the restraining order as a publicity stunt by his radio rival.
“People in this town know who he is and what he is,” Reese said about Sasso, moments after receiving the order. “He just wants to be in on the little bit of the publicity because his ratings are so far in the toilet.”
Regarding his MLK statements, Reese said "Facts are facts, truth is truth," adding that he might pre-empt other programing to air the editorial round the clock. The 40-year-old former carpenter claims he helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity in the Mississippi Delta and once dated an African American woman. He insists he's not racist: “I distance myself from that."
The Mountain States Anti-Defamation League has asked Reese to stop broadcasting the editorial. The school board passed a resolution last week supporting the holiday and calling the editorial "inflammatory and detrimental to our district and community." The vote came after Reese walked out of the meeting.
"Timed as they are, Mr. Reese's words demean the existence of the Martin Luther King Holiday and its honoring of not just Reverend King but of his messages of equal rights, peaceful demonstration, civility and respect," the board said in its resolution.
Mayor Tom Norton, a former state legislator, said Reese's views don't represent Greeley, which holds an annual MLK Day March and celebration.
"I find it difficult to figure out where he's coming from," Norton said.
Reese said some advertisers have departed the low-power FM station, which he has owned since 2000, over the editorial. But he said he is financially able to survive indefinitely without sponsors. He said he's received death threats.
He also said that he's not trying to become a lightning rod for debate over the holiday, which was controversial in some states at its inception. "That's not what my push is. I think it's important for people to discuss any issue openly, freely and without being assassinated or bankrupted."
He's an elected member of the Greeley-Evans School District 6 board since 2009. Last week, the school board passed a resolution denouncing Reese's radio editorial:
Reese had aired the editorial, which he said was sent to the station in an anonymous letter, in relative obscurity for the past three Januarys.
Greeley, about 60 miles north of Denver is nestled in the center of mostly agricultural Weld County and has a large meatpacking plant, JBS Swift & Co., which was hit in a 2006 federal raid targeting illegal immigrant workers.
"It's a very conservative town," said Ceta Mercadal, 21, a sociology and Africana studies major at the University of Northern Colorado, who grew up in New Orleans and is African American. "When I first got here, I felt like I was one of a kind."
Many of the claims in Reese's editorial were spun out of FBI efforts in the 1960s to discredit King, including charges of marital infidelities.
"It's hurtful and totally unnecessary," said Sabrina Harms, 17, a senior at Greeley West High School, one of four high schools in the district. "Thank you for sharing the information but I think that Martin Luther King's accomplishments stand as they are."
Bryan Wright, the only African American principal in the district, sees a learning experience for students in the editorial slamming King.
"To assume somebody is perfect because they're famous is misleading," Wright said. "What makes us special is that we're allowed to do something great despite our shortcomings."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.