‘A big embarrassment’: Leaked video sparks turmoil in Nevada GOP
A newly elected member of the state Republican Central Committee was removed for recording Michele Fiore ranting about Amy Tarkanian, and a new policy prohibiting videotaping was imposed.
Updated January 26, 2023 - 11:19 am
When Drew Hirsty watched Michele Fiore speak at a Nov. 15 Clark County Republican Central Committee meeting, he took offense at some of the things she was saying.
So he took out his phone and began recording Fiore’s comments.
Captured on tape was Fiore attacking fellow Republican Amy Tarkanian, who had endorsed Fiore’s opponent in her unsuccessful bid for state treasurer in November, including Fiore calling Tarkanian “Ms. Alcoholic” and a “panty dropper after two shots.”
The remarks left him “appalled, offended and shocked,” Hirsty said.
He uploaded the video to Google Drive and sent it to Margaret White, another member of the Clark County Republican Party, who shared it with everyone she could think of. Media outlets saw the video and wrote about the speech Fiore gave after losing the treasurer’s race.
Two months later, Hirsty, a longtime Republican and newly elected delegate, was expelled from the state Republican Party Central Committee at a meeting in Ely on Jan. 14. He thinks a vote will take place at the next Clark County Republican Central Committee asking to remove him and White from that body as well.
Hirsty’s expulsion brings further division to the Nevada Republican Party, which has faced internal criticism from some Republicans who think leadership is operating with a “thug mentality” and has failed to get more Republicans elected.
“It’s not what I believe Republicans stand for: integrity and class,” said White, a former chief of staff of the Clark County Republican Party. “They just want their small clique of people they can control. … They throw out anybody that disagrees with them.”
‘A big embarrassment’
Hirsty had also recorded and sent a video of Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald speaking at the same meeting in November about “backstabbing” Republicans such as Tarkanian, a former state party chairwoman who supported incumbent Democratic candidates Attorney General Aaron Ford and state Treasurer Zach Conine in the November 2022 election.
Hirsty said that after the videos were shared, Clark County Republican Party Chairman Jesse Law called and threatened to “get even” with him, but Law denies making a threat.
Law won a fight for leadership of the county party in 2021 over state Sen. Carrie Buck, R-Henderson. Two opposing factions were formed, with Law leading one and Buck leading the other, with both factions holding meetings and claiming to be the legitimate party. The dispute went to court, but the lawsuit was settled privately, with Law chairing the party since.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, Law made a motion to remove Hirsty from the committee, and he did so when about 40 members who supported Hirsty were out of the room, Hirsty said. The motion was approved by a 55-45 vote, Hirsty said.
In a video from the meeting obtained by the Review-Journal, Law told the attendees that when Fiore made a “very passionate and colorful speech” and when McDonald also spoke, a member of the audience recorded it and uploaded it to a Google Drive to be shared with the media. He saw the account belonged to Hirsty.
“To me, it’s rather destructive to this organization, to the state organization,” Law said in the video. “It’s a big embarrassment and that really bothers me.”
“I don’t want any of this problem, but also I don’t want videos uploaded where we get to be a laughing stock.” Law continued in the video. “I want Clark County to be doing great, so anyone involved in trying to upload videos and share with the media to harm us and embarrass us, I didn’t think that this body would want to be a part of that.”
‘Whatever it takes’
In an interview with the Review-Journal, Law said that during his phone conversation with Hirsty, Law told Hirsty that his actions seemed destructive to the organization, and Hirsty replied, “if that’s what it takes.”
Hirsty, however, said Law mixed up the conversation. Hirsty said during the phone call, he admitted to taking the video and Law allegedly said that is destroying the party. Hirsty replied that Law was the one destroying the party. Hirsty claims that Law said “if you want me to get dark, I will get even.” And Hirsty only then replied, “whatever it takes.”
“I was shocked,” Hirsty said. “If I was trying to destroy the party, I certainly wouldn’t have driven five hours to Ely. It’s really all about transparency and integrity, and we have an issue with that.”
Law said Hirsty was not “remorseful” in any way and is “clearly out with some agenda.”
“I don’t like this kind of thing,” Law said. “This kind of thing makes my skin crawl. I do mean that. It’s gross, and embarrassing. … It’s my job to protect the organization, and that’s what I was doing.”
Law said that Fiore’s behavior was “bad” but that it will not be happening again. (Fiore is no longer a member of the Clark County Republican Party, as she has moved to Nye County to serve as a justice of the peace.)
“We have full agreement on that,” Law said. “But if someone says, ‘my tactic is to harm and embarrass the organization,’ that has to be dealt with.”
Law does not expect to take a vote to remove Hirsty, but he said there will be a discussion about what happened with the rest of the body.
No more recording allowed
At the Clark County Republican Party Central Committee meeting last week at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, Hirsty and White both expected there would be an attempt to remove them from the Clark County Republican Party Central Committee, but before that motion could take place, another motion was brought forward to prohibit all future recordings of meetings as well as to institute a “code of conduct” for members.
Signs had been posted saying recording was prohibited without permission from the property, and someone at the door told attendees that videotaping and recording was not allowed. Podcasters who for years recorded the meetings were not allowed to record and left. The Review-Journal also attempted to attend the meeting but was asked to leave, after being told it was a private meeting.
“What are we hiding?” said Chris Dyer, host of the conservative PAA Podcast, in an episode about the meeting. “What are we hiding from that we’ve turned into all the other regimes that stifle people trying to spread the word, spread the message, about the good news about the Republican Party. We’re out there trying to get Republicans elected. But now we want to hide at Stoney’s.”
John Bruchhagen, host of the Johnny Bru Show, which has streamed the meetings for about two years, was disappointed when his cameraman was asked not to record.
For a party that stands for freedom, liberty and deregulation, he said, he does not think the party should be instituting mandates like prohibiting recording or telling people how to behave.
“If somebody wants to curse or say something crazy, I’d rather know that about them than stifle their speech and not know that about them,” he said.
Members of the party spoke about the need for transparency, and the motion was rejected, Hirsty said. Someone then requested an adjournment, and the meeting ended.
Clark County Republican Party Vice Chairman Patrick Casale maintained Stoney’s has a no-recording policy. (A call to the venue wasn’t returned by deadline.) He said the party has issues with people who “want to make a name for themselves” by recording others during the meetings. There are people who want to “in-fight” and put “crap around” on social media to garner political points and “take the party down,” he said.
“We believe in freedom of speech,” Casale said. “You publicly humiliated two members by putting things out there … creating a problem for them and legal issues.”
People have asked if the party could change locations that will allow recordings, but “we don’t want to lose the ability to have our meetings for free,” Casale said.
When asked if a central committee secretary had at least recorded the proceedings for the party’s records, Casale said no.
Also at the meeting last week, members of the Proud Boys, a far-right and neo-fascist organization, tried to kick White out for trespassing, saying she could not be there, before other members of the party stood up for her. She filed a police report accusing those members of intimidation and assault, she said.
Hirsty expects members will decide whether or not to remove him and White at the next meeting, however Casale said to his knowledge as of Tuesday, there are no plans to revoke the membership of anyone from the Clark County Republican Party Central Committee.
“We are a private organization,” Casale said. “We’re trying to go forward and come together. They’re trying to divide and conquer. It’s not going to work.”
Law also does not expect to take a vote to remove Hirsty, but he said there will be a discussion about what happened with the rest of the body.
“All of these people that want to complain about censorship, it’s called good judgment,” Casale said. “We’re trying to win elections. We need to bring the party together.”
Contact Jessica Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.