A local pro-Trump activist who has repeatedly threatened The Post-Star said in several closed social media groups on Wednesday that a staff member of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, called on him to rally his members and pack a planned town hall meeting in Kingsbury on Friday.
“I was contacted by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s campaign manager, Alex DeGrasse to send his appreciation on behalf of Elise for holding down her Glens Falls office from the invasion of socialists and commies,” Mike Kibling of the North Country Deplorables wrote. (Note: DeGrasse is actually Stefanik’s director of strategic planning. He was formerly her campaign manager.) “She is asking us to show up early to secure all the seating inside the fire station so that the fake news reporters will only capture supporters clapping and cheering as she announces her accomplishments.”
Kibling said in a Wednesday interview with North Country Public Radio that DeGrasse contacted him regarding Friday’s town hall.
Just four days ago, at a downtown Glens Falls pro-Trump rally, Kibling cocked his fake semi-automatic weapon, pointed it at a Post-Star reporter and said: “Here is my unloaded rifle, Post-Star. Thanks for the calls from the FBI and the BCI (state Bureau of Criminal Investigation).”
After aiming the fake gun’s barrel directly at the reporter’s face, Kibling called the reporter by name through the megaphone and threatened the Glens Falls newspaper.
“Hang on, Post-Star, we’ve got one coming for you over there too,” Kibling said.
On Thursday morning, Post-Star Editor Ken Tingley sent an email to Stefanik’s communications director, Madison Anderson, in response to the alleged invitation.
Urging the congresswoman to visit the Glens Falls newspaper and explain to the staff and their families why she “has put them in danger,” Tingley called on Stefanik to denounce the actions of DeGrasse and renounce any affiliation with Kibling.
“I am shocked that Rep. Stefanik would join forces and give legitimacy to Mike Kibling after his widely reported threats against The Post-Star and one of our female reporters this past weekend,” Tingley wrote to Anderson, explaining that Kibling’s threats have affected staff.
“Those threats have made many of the men and women who work at our newspaper — from the receptionist and obit clerks to those in our advertising department — nervous about their safety,” Tingley continued. “Considering the times we live in and the Capital Gazette shooting from a year ago, we are appalled that the congresswoman has given this bully credibility and support.”
As of Thursday evening, Stefanik had not responded to Tingley’s request.
And after repeated Post-Star attempts by email and phone to reach Anderson and DeGrasse regarding Kibling’s comments, the NY-21 congresswoman’s office remained silent.
The president of the New York News Publishers Association addressed the matter on Thursday as well.
“Rep. Stefanik should cut ties with the political activist who threatened a Post-Star reporter and the newspaper’s staff, and publicly condemn threats against journalists,” Diane Kennedy wrote.
After word of Kibling’s personal invitation by DeGrasse surfaced, another local group supporting President Donald Trump canceled a planned rally outside the town hall meeting in Kingsbury.
“When I saw the town hall announced, I asked our group if we would do a rally. They said ‘yes,’” said Bill Bombard, founder of the Friends Who Support President Trump, referring to Friday’s Stefanik town hall.
At the time, Bombard was not aware that the congresswoman allegedly reached out to Kibling, of the North Country Deplorables, about filling the town hall with his members.
“I did not realize, but predicted the other groups would show,” said Bombard, who told The Post-Star at a rally on Saturday that he worried that Kibling’s group would hijack his group’s planned town hall rally. “I consulted with my long-term members and we agreed to do a separate rally. We stand separate. We will not allow our group to be confused with the others. It seems the Trump movement has been hijacked by big egos.”
New York Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said Thursday in an email that he was not privy to the conversations between Kibling and Stefanik’s staff, so he could not comment directly.
“I think the current state of public discourse (on both ends of the political spectrum and across the country) is not good and that everyone should be striving to a return to civility,” Stec said.
According to Bombard, his group has scheduled a 3 p.m. rally on Friday at Juckett Park in Hudson Falls, the same time as Stefanik’s town hall at the Kingsbury volunteer fire company station at 3715 Burgoyne Ave.
A day after posting his initial information about DeGrasse’s invitation, Kibling posted that he may have embellished part of his post.
Nonetheless, Kibling stood by his original statement about Stefanik’s staff contacting him.
“Well it’s not inaccurate; what it was, during the conversation he let me know Elise Stefanik was coming to Kingsbury and Johnstown and any supporters are welcome and appreciated,” Kibling said to NCPR. “Of course we are supporters of Elise Stefanik, so I’m sure he called just like they called a lot people to let them know she’s coming to town.”
Still, as of late Thursday afternoon, The Post-Star was unable to identify any other local grassroots groups that were contacted by the congresswoman’s staff.
Bombard, who formed the Friends who Support President Trump in 2017 and has been rallying in Glens Falls since that time, was not contacted.
Kibling only recently formed the North Country Deplorables after a falling out with APEX, another local pro-Trump group.
Other groups, who have historically called on the congresswoman to listen to constituents’ concerns about policy and her lack of town halls, have also not been contacted by the congresswoman.
“No, we were not contacted,” said Agata Stanford, Glens Falls, founder of New Resistance USA. “That Elise Stefanik had to send her lieutenant out in a call to arms for members of APEX and The North Country Deplorables to pack a hall to protect her from a direct attack of pointed questions from her constituents, makes one suspect the congresswoman is afraid of direct and pointed questions. She’s been shielding herself from them for years. No town halls for years.
“But of course, coffee hours are more manageable and are held at a time of day when only retirees, the unemployed or pre-school children are able to attend,” Stanford continued. “I guess she had to call out her support troops, because even we’re pretty frightening.”
Additionally, several constituents expressed dismay with the congresswoman’s two-day notice about the town hall and the middle-of-the-day time slot for the meeting.
“With two days’ notice, it was not enough time for me to arrange time off from my job. It was important to me to be there, to press Stefanik on progress addressing the outrageous costs of life saving medicines,” said Sara Carpenter, Queensbury, who has asked the congresswoman on several occasions about the high cost of prescription drugs. “But with only two days’ notice it was impossible. Of course that’s why she planned it for the middle of a workday and with only two days’ notice, so families like ours can’t attend. And to be extra sure we couldn’t attend … Stefanik had her senior staff reach out to radical right-wing groups and request they come early and take all the seats, ensuring that those who could come would be denied entry.”