Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator, author and filmmaker who stirred controversy after an insensitive tweet about the survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is slated to speak in Bigfork this weekend at a fundraising event organized by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee.
D’Souza drew national media attention when, in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting and the state legislature’s subsequent decision to not discuss a ban on assault weapons, he tweeted of the students’ disappointment: “Worst news since their parents told them to get a summer job.”
In another tweet posted on Feb. 20 D’Souza wrote: “Genuine grief I can empathize with. But grief organized for the cameras — politically orchestrated grief — strikes me as phony & inauthentic.”
D’Souza later apologized for the tweet, saying the remarks were taken out of context, but the gesture did little to quell the heated controversy they generated. The comments drew widespread condemnation, including from conservative groups, prompting the Conservative Political Action Conference to remove D’Souza’s profile from the organization’s website and call his comments “indefensible.”
In Texas, the Fulshear Area Chamber of Commerce canceled an event featuring D’Souza, whose most recent book, “The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left,” posits that Democrats “have an ideology virtually identical with fascism and routinely borrow tactics of political terror from the Nazi Brownshirts.”
He has continued to make other appearances, however, including a speaking engagement at Yale earlier this month.
His upcoming appearance on March 10 at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts was organized by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee and Gerald Molen, a Bigfork resident who won an Academy Award for co-producing “Schindler’s List.” A friend of D’Souza’s, Molen worked with him on two documentaries, “2016: Obama’s America” and “America: Imagine a World Without Her.”
The event drew criticism from a local human-rights organization whose members are still reeling from a high-profile anti-Semitic troll storm brought on by the publisher of a neo-Nazi website, who threatened to stage an armed march in Whitefish. The organization took umbrage with D’Souza drawing parallels between liberals and Nazis.
“The Flathead Valley knows what it’s like to be attacked by actual Nazis, and rhetoric like the kind that Dinesh D’Souza regularly issues is an attempt to divide healthy communities that get along pretty well despite our differences,” Cherilyn DeVries, of the group Love Lives Here, said.
The Montana Human Rights Network said the decision to invite D’Souza to the Flathead Valley is “an insult to the community’s values.”
“There is enough political toxicity coming out of Washington, D.C. these days,” Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said. “We need to be striving for real solutions at the local level. D’Souza and his brand of harmful ‘alternative facts’ offer nothing to help our communities work together. We hope residents of the Flathead Valley will see through this partisan pandering and reject D’Souza’s divisiveness.”
Dee Kirk-Boon, chair of the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, said D’Souza was still scheduled to speak and there had been no discussion about canceling the engagement. She said D’Souza’s apology for his controversial remarks should be accepted and there was strong interest in the event.
“I believe that we have all spoken words that we wish we hadn’t spoken under certain circumstances. We all need to take a step back at times, compose ourselves before letting our tongues speak the words we may regret,” she said. “Dinesh has apologized for his insensitive comments towards the students. Given our current state of the political scene, we often don’t hear apologies. We all need to slow down and be sure that the words we speak are true of the situation at hand.”
“We look forward to hosting Dinesh here in the Flathead Valley this weekend and showing him our community,” she added.
The Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts received requests from some members of the community to cancel the event, but posted on Facebook that it did not discriminate against organizations renting the facility based on politics or religion.
Doors for the March 10 event open at 5 p.m., and the event will begin at 6. Seating is limited. Tickets cost $100.
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