Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson Apologized to Veterans Group For His Supporters' "Harassment" Over His Exclusion From Presidential Forum

IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff says Johnson apologized for "threatening and unprofessional tactics" by some of his supporters.

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Apologizing a lot these days
Gary Johnson/Flickr

Gary Johnson apologized to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and its CEO Paul Rieckhoff over some purported Johnson supporters' "harassment" directed at the veterans advocacy group, according to a press release on IAVA's website.

Johnson was not invited to participate in IAVA's Commander in Chief forum on Wednesday night, where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton mostly avoided giving meaningful answers put to them by veterans in the audience or meek follow-ups directed to them by NBC moderator Matt Lauer.

In the run-up to the forum, a concerted effort was made by veterans and civilians identifying as Johnson supporters to have the Libertarian presidential candidate (who has polled well among active military servicepeople) included in the forum. Some of the tactics deployed by Johnson's supporters included leaving negative reviews and comments on IAVA's Facebook page and other forms of social media, as well as calling IAVA's offices.

Per IAVA's press release, Johnson "apologized for the threatening and unprofessional tactics some of his supporters have used to express displeasure with their candidates exclusion in major debates."

But for the Libertarian Party (LP), Johnson's exclusion wasn't just a cause for "displeasure," it was a potential violation of the law. As noted in these pages earlier in the week, LP chair Nicholas Sarwark told Reason:

…the LP's position is that as long as IAVA plans to be a "debate-sponsoring organization," the group is required to comply with the same Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules pertaining to "having objective pre-established criteria if they want to remain a non-profit and non-partisan." Sarwark added that if IAVA wants to provide "campaign contributions to Republicans and Democrats by offering them a stage and excluding the Libertarian Party candidate, that's fine, but they have to figure out how to re-organize where they can continue going forward without a tax exemption."

Sarwark addressed his concerns in a letter to IAVA on September 2, but has received no response (an IAVA representative told Reason they have no comment on the letter at this time). Sarwark followed up by addressing his letter to Rieckhoff directly via Twitter, which Rieckhoff did not take kindly to, and even took a shot at Johnson's "What is Aleppo" gaffe for good measure:

It's asking a lot for presidential candidates to be held responsible for the worst actors among the multitudes of people intending to vote for them (it's tough to imagine Trump or Clinton doing anything of the kind), and Johnson has long tried to distinguish himself from his two major party rivals by presenting a non-aggressive and likably civilized image. For that reason, you can see why Johnson would want to distance himself from any vulgar or legitimately threatening language on the phone, in email, or on social media directed at IAVA. It should be noted, however, thus far no one has indicated that there was any specific harassment of that nature from people claiming to be Johnson supporters.

But does political criticism directed at a non-profit organization that some feel is violating FEC rules pertaining to non-profits rise to the level of harassment?

In a tweet this morning, Rieckhoff referred to a blog post written by the pseudonymous military blogger John Q. Public which was critical of IAVA's handling of the Commander in Chief forum as an example of the kind of thing Johnson apologized to him for. IAVA might not find the analysis in John Q. Public's post to be fair or favorable to their position, but no reasonable person could describe this blog post as harassment.

IAVA has extended an invitation to both Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein to appear in a second Commander in Chief forum. According to Rieckhoff, the group is waiting for Johnson to pick a date that works for him.

Reason reached out to both IAVA and the Johnson campaign to clarify what specifically the candidate was apologizing for. We will update this post if we receive a response.

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  2. “What’s IAVA, the first state with a caucus?”

    – Gary Johnson

  3. Making an apology is a tactical AND strategic mistake in my opinion. Libertarians believe in individual responsibility so therefore Gary has nothing to apologize for.

    Also, I guess that wussy in charge of the veterans group can’t handle a simple request without crying. Seriously, what has happened to this country? Is he going to be another AAW?

    1. I’m 50/50 on this. Johnson’s tent is small, so any negative view of his followers might get broad-brush treatment.

      On the other hand, as the post notes, would Hillary apologize? Trump? I don’t recall Bernie apologizing for his douchey supporters.

    2. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that YOU NEVER FUCKING APOLOGIZE. Apologizing is an admission of guilt and the SJW/MSM will crucify you for it. And then continually demand further abasement and appeasement.

    3. You troll ME? AND SO CLOSE TO 9/11?!

      *faints*

  4. “Reason reached out to both IAVA and the Johnson campaign to clarify what specifically the candidate was apologizing for.”

    So Johnson is… Canadian?

    1. “Sorry, eh.”

  5. Wow…after reading more of that dude’s tweets I would be embarrassed if I was a member of his org. What a snide, whiny, little man. He clearly is in favor of making MORE vets as opposed to bringing the ones we have home.

    That said, not sure that twutter is the best place to hash out disagreements.

    1. More Vets = More IAVA contributors.

    2. If you can’t have a meltdown on Twitter, where can you have one?

      1. Three Mile Island?

      2. In the tranny / trisexual / species-changed lavatory?

    3. It seems he has trouble responding to certified mail, so I was just trying to communicate with the man in a language he seems to understand.

      1. Grunting and smells?

        1. Kreegah! Bundalo!

          *beats chest like old Tarzan movie*

        2. Poop flinging.

    4. This will kill his organization in the long run. I’m one of MANY members they’ve lost already, and a lot of us won’t stop until they pay the price for ignoring and marginalizing their members.

    5. Twitter isn’t the best place for anything…

  6. IAVA has extended an invitation to both Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein to appear in a second Commander in Chief forum. According to Rieckhoff, the group is waiting for Johnson to pick a date that works for him.

    That’s great! Of course, they will air it on CSPAN3 at 1am on a Tuesday.

    1. No, that would be too high-profile. It’ll be on CSPAN8, The Ocho!

      1. Dodgeball Fail! ESPN8!

  7. Trump isn’t spending money in key states. Hillary is dissembling on her emails. Jill Stein is spray painting construction equipment. And now Gary Johnson is apologizing for his supporters.

    DOESN’T ANYONE WANT TO WIN THE ELECTION????????

    1. I’d like for all of them to lose. Does that count?

      1. SMOD ’16

        Almanian!/Cthulhu 2106

  8. This post *did* describe an unacceptable and illegal threat:

    “Sarwark added that if IAVA wants to provide “campaign contributions to Republicans and Democrats by offering them a stage and excluding the Libertarian Party candidate, that’s fine, but they have to figure out how to re-organize where they can continue going forward without a tax exemption.””

    Sarwark is threatening to invoke the (Lyndon) Johnson Amendment, which violates the First Amendment, against an organization which opposes his organization.

    That’s worse than any hostile phone message or email.

    Why not join with those who are challenging the Johnson Amendment head-on?

    1. Just to be clear – in 1954, Senator Lyndon Johnson, who was getting criticized by a nonprofit group back in Texas, retaliated by adding a provision to the Internal Revenue Code by which nonprofits can’t take part in elections.

      This had nothing to do with protecting the separation of church and state as some would have you believe, since Johnson was retaliating against *secular* critics. As it happened, however, his amendment had the effect of censoring what ministers can say in the pulpit. But it censors *every* nonprofit group by threatening its tax exemption if it fails to navigate some really complicated rules about political involvement.

      TL;DR version: A rich nonprofit can get top-flight legal advice and phrase its political statements in such a creative way as not to trigger IRS intervention. And its leaders can organize political wings with interlocking directorates with the nonprofit, in order to be even more explicitly political.

      A non-rich nonprofit pretty much ought to stay away from politics because they don’t know all the elaborate legal rules they must comply with in order to talk politics.

      Not to mention that, as the IRS scandals show, the tax-collectors can be politically biased themselves in how they enforce this law.

      It’s not something the LP should be endorsing or enforcing.

      It’s time they held their noses and collaborated with the icky right-wingers and religious types who are fighting the Johnson Amendment.

      1. I’m stating to think that Osama Bin Laden spent his years in hiding breeding a human dedicated to infiltrating and destroying the U.S. from within. That this human was sent back in time and adopted the name Lyndon Baines Johnson. And the human accomplished his mission completely.

        It’s amazing how many crises and social ills are intractable due to the entrenched constituencies LBJ consciously created to preserve his destructive policies.

    2. I think it was Walter Sobchak who once said: “excuse me m’am, but the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restrain!” Gary should have just barged in there, sat down and said “I’m finishing my coffee”.

    1. OK, so, of course they have the right to do this, I’m no fan of people acting like big nationalist gestures should be compulsory, all the standard caveats, but just purely from an optics perspective, do these guys really think that protesting the national anthem on freaking 9/11 is a good way to rally people to whatever the fuck this is supposed to be about?

      1. Well, they’re getting attention, so I guess from a getting attention perspective, it’s working.

        1. Unless you are Donald Trump, there is such a thing as bad attention.

  9. Paul Rieckhoff is a Dem operative who worked for the Kerry campaign, and the IAVA is not a nonpartisan organization in any way.

  10. You’d think that the one candidate who would not be bringing home soldiers in body bags would be welcomed by IAVA.

    Dead soldiers can’t contribute to IAVA.

  11. I don’t understand why he apologized for the actions of strangers (unrelated to his campaign) who happen to support him. Just condemn their decisions or disagree with it.

    Neither Clinton nor Trump will apologize for whatever their supporters do. If a Trump supporting white supremacist knocked out a minority, Trump isn’t responsible.

    Boy, Johnson was really affected by that Aleppo “gaffe”. Johnson should have been all over the media’s dishonesty. They gaffed on geography in the same breath they were mocking Johnson.

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